Cameco reports McArthur River mine, Key Lake mill on track to open soon

Cameco's McArthur River uranium mine is set to reopen after sitting dormant for roughly four years. (Cameco/Supplied - image credit)
Cameco's McArthur River uranium mine is set to reopen after sitting dormant for roughly four years. (Cameco/Supplied - image credit)

A Saskatoon-based uranium company says two of its closed uranium facilities in northern Saskatchewan should be open in the next few months.

On Tuesday, Cameco released its third-quarter financial results and gave an update on company operations.

A conference call with investors and reporters dealt with the reopening of the McArthur River mine and Key Lake mill, which have been closed since 2018 due to low demand for uranium.

"We believe that this is one of, if not the best suite of uranium assets on the planet," said CEO Tim Gitzel.

"These are assets that are proven, low-cost and long-lived."

The company said all of its critical mining equipment is ready and trucks have begun hauling unprocessed uranium ore to the mill.

Cameco first announced its plans to reopen the mine and mill in February. No official opening date has been set, although it's believed the site will restart by the end of December.

Gitzel said the company has hired between 500 to 600 workers to staff the operation over the past year. The company has also installed new automated systems and technology that will make the operations safer and more efficient, he said.

He said a resurgence in demand for uranium prompted the reopening of the operations. The company expects to have contracts for 77 million pounds of uranium by the end of the year.

Gitzel said that the Russian invasion of Ukraine has prompted many customers to look toward Saskatchewan-produced uranium. He also said a global focus on clean energy and a mounting energy crisis in Europe could drive demand higher.

"Nuclear energy is back in durable growth mode and Cameco is back in durable growth mode," he said.

"We're still operating well below capacity and our continued contracting success is setting us up for further growth as it lays the foundation for our transition back to a tier-one run rate."

During the call, the company also talked about its recent purchase of Westinghouse, a veteran maker of equipment for nuclear power plants around the world.

Cameco bought the company, along with Brookfield Renewable Partners, for $7.9 billion US earlier this month.

"We expect Westinghouse, like Cameco, to benefit as nuclear power is forecast to double over the coming decades," said Cameco's chief financial officer Grant Isaac during the call.

"Growth in demand comes from several sources: existing reactors saved from early shutdowns, existing reactors undergoing life extensions to operate for materially more decades, and new markets for fuel products and services like Eastern Europe as a result of the unprecedented geopolitical realignment."

Cameco posted a net loss of $20 million in the third quarter, but said prices were 27 per cent higher than the same quarter last year.