Kazatomprom updates operations under COVID-19 lockdown

07 April 2020

Kazatomprom said today that it expects Kazakhstan's 2020 annual uranium production volume to decrease by up to 4,000 tU from previous expectations as the company introduces measures to comply with COVID-19 lockdown requirements. Measures that will result in a lower level of wellfield activity, and thus a reduction in production volume, are expected to remain in place for three months. Kazatomprom is the world's biggest uranium producer, accounting for 23% of global output of the metal in 2018.

Kazatomprom expects operations to be affected for three months (Image: Kazatomprom)

Government-imposed measures to slow the spread of the virus, including restrictions on the movement of people and strict hygiene directives, now cover all regions where Kazatomprom operates and have been enforced at all its sites and offices, CEO Galymzhan Pirmatov said.

"In order to abide by local lockdown requirements and reduce the risk of a localised outbreak, all of the company’s subsidiaries are reducing the number of staff on site to minimum possible levels. All non-essential staff will return home with full pay, while those remaining on site will operate within strict social distancing and hygiene practices. We are now working with our joint venture partners on assessing the full impact and detailed implementation of this decision across all of Kazakhstan's uranium mines, and we appreciate their support during these challenging times," Pirmatov said.

Based on the assumption that the measures will remain in place for three months, Kazatomprom said it expects Kazakshtan's 2020 uranium production to be up to 4000 tU lower than the 22,750-2,800 tU (on a 100% basis) previously expected. The precise impact on production may vary from this estimate, it said. It expects to give updated 2020 guidance for production, revenue and costs in a quarterly operations and trading update scheduled for 4 May.

Kazatomprom said last month its uranium inventory would enable it to meet its commitments should mine production or the ability to physically deliver material be impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak. Today it said the reduced production is not expected to impact its 2020 sales obligations. It has informed all of its customers that their full contractual requirements will be met.

Canadian Cameco said on 24 March that it had suspended mining operations at the Cigar Lake uranium mine in Saskatchewan and by Orano Canada of production at the McClean Lake uranium mill for at least four weeks. CNNC Rössing Uranium suspended normal mining operations at the Rössing uranium mine in Namibia from 28 March in response to a state of emergency imposed by the Namibian government.

"More than ever, this pandemic highlights the important role that nuclear power generation plays in providing a resilient and reliable source of clean, baseload electricity for maintaining key services around the world, including hospitals, transportation, telecommunication, and food storage, as well as the heating and lighting of homes," Kazatomprom said.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News