(Adds Cameco confirming deal)
By Rod Nickel
Sept 12 (Reuters) - Canadian uranium producer Cameco Corp and the United Steelworkers union, which represents 535 workers at the world’s largest uranium mine and a nearby mill, have agreed to a tentative deal ending a nearly two-week lockout, both sides said on Friday.
Shortly after the lockout began, the union said outstanding issues included pensions, benefits and compensation for working in a remote region. The previous contract expired on Dec. 31, 2013.
Mike Pulak, a staff representative for United Steelworkers, said workers would begin returning to the McArthur River, Saskatchewan mine and Key Lake mill as early as Friday.
There was “pressure exerted on all sides equally” to get a deal, Pulak said in a phone interview. Through “open lines of communication, we managed to break through on our last issues and get a good deal.”
He declined to specify terms of the deal because the union’s bargaining committee, which is recommending acceptance, has not yet shared terms with workers. Cameco spokesman Rob Gereghty also declined to disclose details.
Cameco locked out workers Aug. 30 after the union’s bargaining committee rejected the company’s offer on Aug. 28. The union had earlier issued a strike notice for Aug. 30.
Gereghty said the company was arranging to return workers to the northern Saskatchewan sites and could not estimate when production would resume.
Workers are expected to vote on the tentative deal from late September to early October.
Cameco shares rose 2.8 percent and 2.3 percent in Toronto and New York, respectively, in afternoon trading.
The shutdown was expected to reduce some of the world’s excess uranium supply but also crimp earnings at Cameco, which analysts said may have to find other supplies at a higher cost if it dragged on.
Spot uranium prices, which have been depressed since an earthquake and tsunami in 2011 led to a shutdown of Japan’s nuclear reactors, rose to $33 per pound on Thursday, matching the Aug. 28 level that was the highest since April, according to Ux Consulting.
France’s Areva SA owns minority stakes in the McArthur River mine and the Key Lake mill, which processes ore from McArthur. (Reporting by Rod Nickel in Winnipeg, Manitoba; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Tom Brown)