Saskatoon’s Cameco corporation has announced it is laying off 700 employees.
The announcement came on Wednesday afternoon as the uranium mining company released its second-quarter results.
Cameco CEO Tim Gitzel says the layoffs are the result of weaker than expected markets and net losses of $76 million.
The company says the weakened markets also mean the continued shutdown of the McArthur River and Key Lake mining sites for an indefinite period of time.
Approximately 550 employees are being laid off at these two sites and another 150 at Cameco’s head office in Saskatoon.
Gitzel says it is indeed a tough time for the company but they are looking ahead.
“They’re not just employees in these communities, they’re my friends, so for that to happen and for us to take that decision is really tough but we need to do it for the long-term viability of the company,” he says.
The company CEO says Cameco is being forced to deal with what appears to be a permanently changed world uranium market after the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant disaster in Japan seven years ago.
“The world changed for us back in 2011, just after the accident in Japan, the Fukushima accident, the day before that we were sitting in Saskatoon and in Saskatchewan wondering how we were going to keep up with all the growth that is going on.”
Gitzel says since 2011 the price of uranium has dropped from $75 U.S. per pound to $23 per pound where it sits today.
Cameco says a $41 million expense at the Rabbit Lake reclamation project and changes in foreign exchange rates also contributed to the net losses.
Financial numbers show for the three months ending June 30, company revenue was down 29 per cent and gross profit 72 per cent compared to the same period last year.
Cameco initially issued about 845 temporary layoff notices to workers at the McArthur River and Key Lake sites back in January.
At the time, it was expected the two sites would be temporarily closed for 10 months.
Now the uranium mining company says about 200 employees will remain on at both the shuttered sites.
Cameco expects to incur as much as $45 million in severance costs as a result of the layoffs.
In a released statement, Saskatchewan Minister of Energy and Resources Bronwyn Eyre says the government offers its support to the employees and families affected by the layoffs and is putting forward its Rapid Response Team to provide assistance.
Cameco also shed roughly 500 jobs in 2016 when the company shut down its Rabbit Lake mining operation.
It remains of the biggest employers in northern Saskatchewan and has a roughly 50 per cent Indigenous workforce.
The Cigar Lake site will now be Cameco’s lone mine in operation in the province.
(Photo: Cameco logo. Photo courtesy www.cameco.com)