It has been nearly two months since over 800 people were left without work at Cameco’s Key Lake mine and McArthur River operations.
After a downturn in the uranium market, Cameco announced they would be temporarily halting the northern operations. Over 800 employees were officially laid off at the end of January. A skeleton maintenance crew now remains.
One northern leader says he is already starting to see the effects these layoffs have had in his community.
Duane Favel, the mayor of Ile-a-la-Crosse, says while the damage isn’t obvious, he says it is there.
“After working all your life, how do you deal with this downtime? People need to be engaged, focused and working,” he said. “This has been a stressful time for a lot of the employees who were laid off.”
In the meantime, employees from the two northern operations will be receiving 75 per cent of their salary through employment insurance benefits and a Cameco top-up. Cameco officials have said they hope the top-up will encourage these laid off employees to return to work when operations resume.
Favel now says his community’s plan is to diversify its economic portfolio.
“Those are things we need to explore and see what other resources we have in northern Saskatchewan to engage our people and our youth,” said Favel.
Mayor Favel made the comments to MBC News following a presentation in Ile-a-la-Crosse where Cameco officials announced $50,000 in new scholarships for northern students. CEO Tim Gitzel says despite the tough economic times, they wanted to continue to work positively with their northern partners.
While Cameco officials haven’t confirmed if this shutdown could be extended, Favel is remaining optimistic.
“We are hopeful that these mines will get going, get back up, and employing northern Saskatchewan residents again,” he said.
(PHOTO: Ile-a-la-Crosse Mayor Duane Favel. Photo by Joel Willick.)