Cameco creates $1M coronavirus relief fund for Saskatoon, northern Saskatchewan charities

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WATCH: Cameco announcing charity relief fund – Apr 15, 2020

Cameco has created a $1-million coronavirus relief fund to help charities, not-for-profits, town offices and First Nation band offices in Saskatoon and northern Saskatchewan.

The Saskatoon-based uranium company announced the one-time grants of up to $50,000 on Wednesday.

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Cameco president and CEO Tim Gitzel said communities, particularly in the north, continue to adapt, which includes physical distancing and a singular focus on reducing the spread of COVID-19 to save lives.

“We see the hurt out there. We know there’s a lot of challenges for a lot of organizations in Saskatoon and northern Saskatchewan. So we put this fund in place to help out where we can… We just want to do something to help out in these times,” Gitzel said.

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“We see it everywhere and we feel we know these are uncertain times for everybody and we’re in a position where we’re able to give back.”

The grants must be used to help with the challenges of the pandemic and can be directed to ongoing program support, targeted COVID-19 community response or specialized programs, the company said.

“We’re looking to community organizations, First Nations communities that are just hurting right now, that just need a bit of a hand with COVID-19 relief,” Gitzel said.

“We’re pretty open to it. We ask people to tell us their story. Tell us what they need. Give us a detailed budget. And we’ve got a group here that will look at all of those details and… we’ll decide very quickly. We can have money out within a day or two after that.”

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Cameco said 75 per cent of the funding will be released immediately once approved, with the remainder coming after financial and impact reporting is received.

The company said Monday it was extending the temporary production suspension at its Cigar Lake uranium mine due to the novel coronavirus.

“Like everyone else, we have been impacted. Our big mine, Cigar Lake, we just announced this week that we’ve suspended operations there for an indeterminate period of time,” Gitzel said.

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“We wanted to make sure that we were complying with all of the regulations and rules in place… We just thought for the best of the north and in the best interests of everyone, we just suspend operations for a while. So we’re watching that on a daily and weekly basis and hope to be back up soon.”

The application deadline for the fund is midnight April 28.

Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

Health officials caution against all international travel. Returning travellers are legally obligated to self-isolate for 14 days, beginning March 26, in case they develop symptoms and to prevent spreading the virus to others. Some provinces and territories have also implemented additional recommendations or enforcement measures to ensure those returning to the area self-isolate.

Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out.

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