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Cameco starting production at Cigar Lake mine in April after temporary COVID-19 closure

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WATCH: Saskatoon-based Cameco will be donating $1 million to 67 community projects through a COVID-19 relief fund - and the company's CEO says the number of applications shows there's a lot of need for support in the province – May 6, 2020

Uranium mining company Cameco plans to restart production in April at the Cigar Lake uranium mine in northern Saskatchewan after temporarily closing in December due to increasing risk of COVID-19.

In a press release, the company said their workforce availability was shrinking during that time with workers screening out or living in communities with pandemic-related travel restrictions.

Cameco CEO and president Tim Gitzel said safety of workers, their families and communities is a top priority for the company.

Read more: Cameco temporarily shutting down Cigar Lake over rising COVID-19 risks

“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,” Gitzel said in a press release.

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“We also worked with the Saskatchewan Health Authority and have established a licensed COVID-19 testing facility at the mine site.”

Gitzel added that these safety measures combined with Saskatchewan’s vaccine rollout and “increased confidence around our ability to manage our critical workforce” has provided Cameco with certainty that they will be able to operate Cigar Lake mine safely.

The timeline of restarting production is dependent on how quickly they can re-gather their workforce.

“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.

“Having said that, worker health and safety is our top priority, and we will not hesitate to take further action if we feel our ability to operate safely is compromised due to the pandemic.”

Read more: Supreme Court of Canada dismisses CRA leave application in tax dispute with Cameco

As of Dec. 31, Cameco had $943 million in cash and short-term investments and a $1 billion undrawn credit facility.

The Cigar Lake mine is operated by Cameco who owns nearly 50 per cent of the operation. Orano Canada Inc. owns 37.1 per cent, Idemitsu Canada Resources Ltd. own 7.875 per cent and TEPCO Resources Inc. owns 5 per cent of the operation

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