Cameco resumed production at its Port Hope Conversion Facility’s UF6 plant and its Blind River Refinery in Ontario the week of May 18, and planned to achieve regular production levels the week of May 25.
On April 8, Cameco placed these facilities in a temporary safe shutdown state for approximately four weeks and, where possible, maintenance work scheduled for the summer would be advanced. Screening protocols and other measures put in place to align with government and public health directives around COVID-19 were contributing to workforce uncertainty at the UF6 plant, which is a complex operation designed to run as a continuous process without interruption, according to the company. The decision was therefore made to suspend production at the plant, as well as at the Blind River Refinery, since the majority of the UO3 produced there is used in the production of UF6 at Port Hope.
The workforce situation has now stabilized, providing Cameco with increased certainty around the availability of necessary personnel to operate the UF6 plant. With the appropriate conditions currently in place to resume normal operations, the company said it decided to return both the plant and the refinery to production.
“The provinces and communities where we operate are certainly not out of the woods when it comes to this global pandemic, and we must remain vigilant in how we manage our activities during these challenging times,” Cameco President and CEO Tim Gitzel said. “However, we are confident that we can maintain the required roster of qualified operators to run the UF6 plant going forward, enabling us to carefully bring the plant and the UO3 refinery back into production.”
Given the evolving nature of the COVID-19 situation and the number of moving pieces, on April 13, Cameco withdrew its 2020 outlook for its fuel services division, including production.
While the two Ontario facilities return to production, there is no change in the status of Cameco’s Cigar Lake uranium mine.