Cameco, Orano shut down Saskatchewan uranium facilities due to COVID-19 fears

SASKATOON — Hundreds of employees are being sent home in northern Saskatchewan as Cameco Corp. suspends production at its Cigar Lake uranium mine and partner Orano Canada Inc. closes its affiliated McClean Lake uranium mill.

The companies say their facilities will be placed in maintenance mode for four weeks due to the threat posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, although neither has any confirmed cases among their workforce.

Spokesman Jeff Hryhoriw says the shutdown means about 75 people from Cameco’s workforce of 320 employees and 240 contractors will remain at the site — the rest are being sent home, although they will continue to collect their pay and benefits.

Similarly, Orano Canada spokeswoman Carey Hyndman says it will keep about 50 people at its mill site and send the rest of its 320 mill workers home with pay.

Both say the decision to suspend production takes into account the challenges of guarding against the COVID-19 threat at a remote fly-in, fly-out site, along with concern for the welfare of vulnerable northern communities where many employees live.

They say the downtime will be used to determine whether to restart the facilities or extend the shutdown.

“We are all in this together,” said Orano Canada CEO Jim Corman. “Our operations work in tandem, and our communities are all interconnected. This is a difficult time for many, and we understand the concerns we are hearing.”

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