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Home News Cameco says fire situation ‘remains active’ at Cigar Lake uranium mine

Cameco says fire situation ‘remains active’ at Cigar Lake uranium mine

Cameco says fire situation ‘remains active’ at Cigar Lake uranium mine
A sprinkler system activates while smoke fills the air near the Cigar Lake mine in northern Saskatchewan on July 1, 2021. Submitted photo

Cameco provided an update today after evacuating most employees from the Cigar Lake uranium mine in northern Saskatchewan because of an active wildfire.  

The wildfire has moved past the main camp area “without serious impact” to the site, the company said in a written statement.  While inspections continue, Cameco has found no structural damage to buildings and all assets appear intact. 

Data from NASA in the United States and Canada showed the fire fully engulfing the region around the mine site on Thursday after moving northeast from Sawatzky Lake. By Friday evening the fire was mostly dispersed to the northwest and southwest of the site.

By Friday evening the Briggs fire was mostly dispersed to the northwest and southwest of Cigar Lake mine. FIRMS US/Canada

Company spokesperson Jeff Hryhoriw said on Thursday that Cameco activated its emergency response team and all of roughly 230 non-essential personnel have been evacuated.

The company said on Friday that all of the roughly 80 essential workers remaining at Cigar Lake are now safe but cautioned  the situation remains active. 

“The evacuation has gone very smoothly thus far,” Hryhoriw said at around twenty minutes after 4 p.m. on Thursday. Two workers confirmed to the Prince Albert Daily Herald that they were booked to evacuate the mine by plane at 3 p.m.

“They are being flown from there out to communities well away from the area… a plan has been developed to keep the roughly 80 personnel remaining at Cigar Lake safe should the threat to the site grow considerably.”

A contract worker at Cigar Lake mine who was evacuated in the morning on Thursday said Cameco is keeping employees informed as the situation develops. Because of the contractual nature of his job, he said he is now without a reliable salary. The Prince Albert Daily Herald agreed to leave the worker’s name out of this report for privacy reasons.

“It was early in the morning… Most of us got transferred to Rabbit Lake because the smoke was too thick to fly out from Cigar (Lake mine),” he said. 

“We had to bust it to Rabbit Lake and catch our flight there.” 

He said video footage that he took of the site and posted on social media was from the day before the evacuation. He said the fire got worse the next day but staff mostly remained calm. 

Smoke pours into the air in this photo taken near the Cigar Lake Mine on July 1, 2021. Submitted photo

Cameco has had fire protocols since he’s been working there and that in the past crew have been on standby to evacuate, he said. 

“It was a rush and everybody was rushing around. The fire boss with a firefighting crew got out there and there were water bombers and helicopters flying all over,” he said.  

“Cameco is prepared for this kind of stuff. Everybody was evacuated and nobody got hurt. I was just hoping the fire wouldn’t burn down the site because if the site burns down then I won’t have a job. I’m really hoping that they have it under control.”

The company said forest fires are dynamic and circumstances can change rapidly. Crews extinguished a few hot spots overnight and some roads in the area remain closed. 

Weather conditions are forecast to remain hot and dry in the north today before temperatures ease through the following days. 

The company said variable and shifting wind and smoke patterns can also pose a challenge. 

There is no timeline as to when the roughly 230 workers who were evacuated from Cigar Lake will return or for the resumption of production. 

A restart decision will depend on factors, like wildfire activity in the area, the impact of ongoing smoke conditions, and safe road and air access to the site, the company said.