The Saskatchewan, Canada-based uranium company made the announcement on 9 February as part of its fourth-quarter and year-end financial reporting. Production at the sites halted in 2018 due to a prolonged slump in the global uranium market, resulting in the loss of about 550 jobs.
The company said it plans to have McArthur River and Key Lake running at 40% below annual licensed capacity by 2024. It then plans to trim output at its Cigar Lake mine, which will then operate at 25% below its annual capacity.
Orano Canada, which owns just over 30% of the McArthur River project along with about 17% of Key Lake, said it supported the restart. Orano Mining chief executive officer Nicolas Maes said in a media release that Cameco’s plan will help extend the life of Cigar Lake, where Orano also owns a stake.
“Given the continued unbalanced uranium market conditions, the restart of McArthur gives us the opportunity to reduce production at Cigar Lake, extending the life of this asset and postponing the need for new projects in northern Saskatchewan,” Mr Maes said.
Cameco reported a fall in profit and revenue for the fourth quarter of 2021, but said global demand for nuclear fuel is rising ahead of a “looming supply gap”.
The company said profit was CAD11m (€7.5m, USD8.6m) for the quarter ended 31 December compared with a profit of CAD80m a year earlier.
Revenue for the quarter was CAD465m, down from CAD550m in the fourth quarter of 2020.
In its outlook for 2022, Cameco said it expects revenue of between CAD1.5bn and CAD1.65bn, compared to CAD1.05bn in 2021.
Cameco president and chief executive officer Tim Gitzel said the market for uranium is “more constructive than we’ve seen in a very long time”.
“The benefits of nuclear energy have come clearly into focus with a durability that we believe has not previously been seen,” Mr Gitzel said.
Chief financial officer Grant Isaac said: “We see fuel buyers wanting to lock in prices today. They know the price is going to go up.”
Cameco said total planned production in 2022 continues to face risks due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic and related global supply chain disruptions, including at its Cigar Lake mine where the company expects to produce 15 million pounds – 20% below licensed capacity.