Cameco assesses Inkai and Ontario operations

08 April 2020

Canadian uranium producer Cameco says Kazatomprom's decision to temporarily decrease operational activity at their Inkai joint venture is "an unplanned event that may lead to variability" in its 2020 outlook. Cameco has also announced that it is implementing a number of temporary operational changes at its fuel services division facilities in Ontario.

The Inkai operation is an in-situ recovery uranium mine in southern Kazakhstan that is owned and operated by JV Inkai, which in turn is currently owned by Cameco (40%) and Kazatomprom (60%).

Kazatomprom said yesterday that it expects Kazakhstan's 2020 annual uranium production volume to decrease by up to 4000 tU from previous expectations as the company introduces measures to comply with COVID-19 lockdown requirements. Cameco said its preliminary assessment of the effects of the Kazakh company's decision is a reduction in Inkai’s 2020 production of up to 12%, which translates into a reduction in Cameco's 2020 purchases from JV Inkai of up to 600,000 pounds of U3O8. Prior to this announcement, Cameco had expected to purchase 4.9 million pounds of U3O8 in 2020.

Cameco says it will be in discussions with Kazatomprom and JV Inkai to determine the impact of Kazatomprom’s decision on output from the operation and Cameco’s purchases. Ownership of JV Inkai is split between Cameco with 40% and Kazatomprom with 60%.

Cameco said it is "too soon to quantify" what the impact of Kazatomprom's decision might be on the market. "We will continue to assess the situation and will provide an update when we can better ascertain what the implications of this decision and other impacts on our business related to COVID-19 might be for this year’s outlook," it said.

Changes to Ontario operations

Cameco has also announced a number of temporary operational changes it is implementing at its fuel services division facilities in Ontario. The changes are due to the "increasing challenge" of maintaining an adequate workforce as a result of screening protocols and other measures put in place to align with the directives and guidance of government and public health authorities for the COVID-19 health crisis, it said.

The UF6 plant at the Port Hope Conversion Facility will be placed in a temporary safe shutdown state for about four weeks and, where possible, maintenance work scheduled for the summer will be advanced. Work to place the plant in safe shutdown mode will occur over the coming days.

Since the majority of the UO3 produced at the Blind River Refinery is used to produce UF6 at the conversion facility, the refinery’s production will also be temporarily suspended and, where possible, summer maintenance work brought forward, Cameco said. The refinery will operate for about a week to produce sufficient UO3 for ongoing UO2 production at the conversion facility. Then, the refinery will be placed in a safe state of care and maintenance for about four weeks. The operation will remain open to receive uranium concentrate deliveries.

UO2 production at the conversion facility, as well as fuel pellet and fuel bundle production at Cameco Fuel Manufacturing Inc will continue, it added.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News