Cameco has decided to temporarily shut down its Cigar Lake uranium mine in northern Saskatchewan, Canada, over Covid-19 concerns.

The move comes as Canada has witnessed a sharp spike in Covid-19 cases in the last few weeks as it battles to control the latest wave of the disease.

The company chose to temporarily suspend production at the site due to increased uncertainty over the availability of qualified operational personnel to run the mine.

Cameco president and CEO Tim Gitzel said: “We have had six positive tests at our northern operations in recent weeks, including three at Cigar Lake. While the protocols we have put in place have to date allowed us to effectively manage these cases, there are broader risks we don’t control.

“Therefore, we believe it is prudent to do our part to continue to protect our people and our operations from the increasing threats that are outside our influence.

“One of the most challenging trends we’ve had to navigate is the shrinking availability of workers in critical roles at Cigar Lake due to self-isolations, absenteeism and communities being on temporary pause for transporting workers due to the pandemic.”

Due to the suspension of works, the company now estimates that it will be unable to achieve its share of production of 5.3 million pounds for this year.

However, material deliveries for the rest of the year will not be impacted.

Cameco operates the Cigar Lake mine with an interest of 50.025%. The remaining stakeholders are Orano Canada (37.1%), Idemitsu Canada Resources (7.875%) and TEPCO Resources (5.0%).

As of 15 December, Canada has reported more than 472,000 Covid-19 cases. The death toll in the country stands at 13,570.