The Cigar Lake head frames are different heights. Shaft No. 1 is about 40 meters (m) and shaft No. 2 is about 35 m above ground. (Photo: Cameco)

Cameco plans to restart production in April at its Cigar Lake uranium mine located in northern Saskatchewan. Production at Cigar Lake was temporarily suspended in December due to increasing risks posed by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, according to the company. At that time, the availability of workers in critical areas was shrinking due to the pandemic, with more individuals screening out or residing in communities with pandemic-related travel restrictions.

“The safety of our workers, their families and communities is always our top priority,” President and CEO Tim Gitzel said. “In recent months, we have implemented several enhanced safety protocols for Cigar Lake, including increased distancing between passengers on flights, mandatory medical-grade masks for all workers, and increased sanitization and physical barriers in our eating areas. We also worked with the Saskatchewan Health Authority and have established a licensed COVID-19 testing facility at the mine site.

“These further safety measures, along with the provincial vaccine rollout program and increased confidence around our ability to manage our critical workforce, have given us greater certainty that Cigar Lake will be able to operate safely and sustainably.”

As the restart process begins, Cameco said it will closely monitor the COVID-19 case counts and the ongoing success of the vaccine rollout, and will continue to have regular dialogue with public health authorities and northern Saskatchewan leaders.

The timing of production restart and the production rate at Cigar Lake will be dependent on how quickly the company can remobilize the workforce. Cameco is not providing updates to its outlook at this time.

“Having Cigar Lake running is part of our strategy and it was always our intention to resume production,” Gitzel said. “There are significant costs associated with having the mine in temporary care and maintenance, and we have a home in our contract portfolio for these low-cost pounds. We will also continue to purchase material, as needed, to meet our committed deliveries.

The Cigar Lake operation is owned by Cameco (50.025%), Orano Canada Inc. (37.1%), Idemitsu Canada Resources Ltd. (7.875%) and TEPCO Resources Inc. (5%) and is operated by Cameco.