Officials at Cameco say a caribou that got into a water collection pond at the Key Lake uranium mine site shouldn’t pose a threat to the environment.

The incident happened on the evening of April 22nd.

Officials say the caribou was likely chased there by wolves and got through because part of the fence had been taken down for routine maintenance.

The animal freed itself after a day but during that time was exposed to water containing elevated heavy metals and radionuclides.

Cameco spokesman Gord Struthers says the brief exposure wouldn’t have caused any kind of acute problems for the caribou.

Struthers says problems would only happen through long-term exposure.

He says they also looked at the question of whether any other animals could get sick later on if they caught and ate the caribou:

“Actually, voluntarily and as a precaution, we did look at that.  We hired a third-party consultant to have a look at that issue, and they did some modelling based on the time of exposure and what was in the pond and concluded there would be no problems of that kind.”

Struthers says this is the only time an incident like this has happened that he’s aware of.

Meantime, Struthers says he saw a recent CBC report that suggested some people in the north knew about the incident, but were scared to speak out for fear of reprisal.

He objects to that suggestion and stresses there are many ways for people to contact the company — either through a site elder or one of five industry liasons in northern communities.

Failing that, he says Cameco also has an ethics hotline that is completely anonymous.