Almaty. August,5. Information Center - Kazakhstan's
JSC National Atomic Company Kazatomprom plans to return staffing levels at its
uranium mines to normal by around the end of this month. The number of
employees at the mine sites was reduced between April and July in response to
the COVID-19 pandemic, World Nuclear News reports.
In a trading update yesterday, the company said:
"Thanks in part to the timely pandemic response measures taken by
Kazatomprom's management in April, there have been no outbreaks at
Kazatomprom's sites, despite increasing cases across Kazakhstan and a number of
cases among the off-site staff. With carefully developed plans to ensure
compliance with distancing and hygiene requirements during shift changes and day-to-day
operations, the company believes it can now safely begin to gradually bring
staff back to the mine sites."
Kazatomprom said its mine workers are expected to begin
returning during the first-half of August, with COVID-19 testing for all of
them. It expects the sites to be back to normal staffing levels within two to
"The ramp-up will be carried out following strict
health and safety protocols to minimise the risk of a potential outbreak,"
Kazatomprom said, adding that it will "continue to monitor the situation
at the operations, as well as all regional COVID-19 developments and
governmental directives, ensuring that any further recommended actions to
reduce the impact of the pandemic are implemented without delay".
During the second quarter of 2020, the company produced 5213
tU, down 5% from the 5506 tU it produced in the corresponding period of 2019.
Output during the first-half of the year was 10,434 tU, down 3% from 10,800 tU
in the first half of 2019.
Kazatomprom said uranium production levels for the
second-half of 2020 are expected to be "severely impacted" by the
four-month shutdown of its mines. It expects to produce 19,250 tU in 2020, down
16% from 2019's output of 22,808 tU. In February, the company said it expected
its 2020 uranium output to remain at about 22,750-22,800 tU.
"The duration and full impact of the COVID-19 pandemic
is not yet known," it said yesterday. "Annual production volumes
could therefore vary from our expectations, depending on the actual
It continues to target an ongoing inventory level of about
six to seven months of annual attributable production, but this
is expected to fall below that in 2020 and 2021, with no opportunity to
catch up production losses in these periods.
"As such, the company will continue to monitor market
conditions for opportunities to optimise its inventory levels and purchased
some volumes in the spot market at the end of the second quarter."
Kazatomprom produces uranium using in situ leach methods
from 26 deposits grouped into 13 mining assets. All of its mining operations
are in Kazakhstan. The world's biggest uranium producer, the Kazakh company
covered 25% of global output of the metal in 2019.
Cameco - the world's third largest uranium producer -
announced plans last week to restart operations at its Cigar Lake uranium mine
at the beginning of September. The underground mine in northern Saskatchewan,
Canada, was placed in care and maintenance in March due to the COVID-19
pandemic. Cameco expects it will take about two weeks to bring Cigar Lake
back into production.