Cameco extends uranium shutdown, withdraws outlook

Cigar Lake is the world’s second largest high-grade uranium deposit, producing 18 million lb of uranium annually. Credit: Cameco

Uranium mining major Cameco (TSX: CCO; NYSE: CCJ) is extending the temporary production suspension at its Cigar Lake mine in northern Saskatchewan as the effects of the global covid-19 pandemic persist, the company announced on Monday.

In late March, Cameco placed the Cigar Lake operation on care and maintenance for four weeks, during which it would assess the status of the situation and determine whether to restart the mine or extend the production suspension.

“The covid-19 pandemic has disrupted global uranium production, adding to the supply curtailments that have occurred in the industry for many years”

After taking several critical factors into consideration, including the precautions and restrictions put in place by the federal and provincial governments, the increasing significant concern among leaders in the remote isolated communities of northern Saskatchewan, and the challenges of maintaining the recommended physical distancing at fly-in/fly-out sites with a full workforce, the company determined that work at Cigar Lake would need to remain at its current reduced level for a longer duration, with the impact of covid-19 continuing to escalate.

As a result, Cameco said it will keep the facility in safe care and maintenance for an indeterminate period, and will monitor the situation on a continual basis to determine when a safe and sustainable restart is possible.

Ore from Cigar Lake is processed at Orano Canada’s McClean Lake mill, which was placed into care and maintenance last week.

The Cigar Lake operation is owned by Cameco (50.025%), Orano (37.1%), Idemitsu Canada Resources (7.875%) and TEPCO Resources (5.0%), with Cameco being the operator.

Cameco president and CEO Tim Gitzel stated that “the covid-19 pandemic has disrupted global uranium production, adding to the supply curtailments that have occurred in the industry for many years.”

“As such, we believe the risk to uranium supply is greater than the risk to uranium demand, creating a renewed focus on ensuring availability of long-term supply. Over time, we expect this renewed focus on security of supply will provide the market signals producers need, and will help offset any near-term costs we may incur as a result of the current disruptions to our business.”

The announcement follows Cameco’s decision last week to temporarily suspend activities at the Port Hope conversion facility in Ontario for a four-week period.

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