MCCLEAN LAKE, SASK. – Orano Canada Inc. is suspending production at its McClean Lake uranium mill in northern Saskatchewan and putting the operation into care and maintenance in response to the threat of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Orano officials noted that while there are no confirmed cases of the virus at Orano operations, it wants to preserve the health and safety of employees, contractors, and their home communities.
Officials explained that the decision was made in conjunction with Cameco’s Cigar Lake mine decision to suspend production and the partners will continue to assess the situation and determine future action.
In a press release the company noted that it took into account the challenges of maintaining all necessary precautions at a fly-in/fly-out site and concern for the welfare of vulnerable northern communities where many employees live.
“We are all in this together,” said Orano Canada Inc. president and CEO Jim Corman. “This is a difficult time for many and we understand the concerns we are hearing. McClean Lake will safely be put into care and maintenance within the next few days and we will continue to assess the situation, always keeping health and safety at the forefront.”
Officials state that while it is difficult to determine the duration of this temporary suspension, it is estimated that it will last at least four weeks. Orano Canada and its partners in the McClean Lake joint venture, in conjunction with Cameco’s Cigar Lake mine operation, said they will work to determine the restart date and conditions in due course.
“By reducing the number of people at the operation, the amount of travel and close proximity of workers will also be substantially reduced, allowing for better physical distancing,” read a company statement.
Currently, approximately 160 employees are at the McClean Lake mill at one time, following a two weeks in, two weeks out schedule. Once the mill is in care and maintenance, approximately 50 employees will be on site to carry out regular monitoring and maintenance activities.