Due to the nature of our business, we are required to make estimates that affect the amount of assets and liabilities, revenues and expenses, commitments and contingencies we report. We base our estimates on our experience, our best judgment, guidelines established by the Canadian Institute of Mining, Metallurgy and Petroleum and on assumptions we believe are reasonable.
We believe the following critical accounting estimates reflect the more significant judgments used in the preparation of our financial statements. These estimates affect all of our segments, unless otherwise noted.
Decommissioning and reclamation
In our uranium and fuel services segments, we are required to estimate the cost of decommissioning and reclamation for each operation, but we normally do not incur these costs until an asset is nearing the end of its useful life. Regulatory requirements and decommissioning methods could change during that time, making our actual costs different from our estimates. A significant change in these costs or in our mineral reserves could have a material impact on our net earnings and financial position. See Note 17 to the financial statements.
Property, plant and equipment
We depreciate property, plant and equipment primarily using the unit-of-production method, where the carrying value is reduced as resources are depleted. A change in our mineral reserves would change our depreciation expenses, and such a change could have a material impact on amounts charged to earnings.
We assess the carrying values of property, plant and equipment and goodwill every year, or more often if necessary. If we determine that we cannot recover the carrying value of an asset or goodwill, we write off the unrecoverable amount against current earnings. We base our assessment of recoverability on assumptions and judgments we make about future prices, production costs, our requirements for sustaining capital and our ability to economically recover mineral reserves. A material change in any of these assumptions could have a significant impact on the potential impairment of these assets.
In performing impairment assessments of long-lived assets, assets that cannot be assessed individually are grouped together into the smallest group of assets that generates cash inflows that are largely independent of the cash inflows from other assets or groups of assets. Management is required to exercise judgment in identifying these cash generating units.
When we are preparing our financial statements, we estimate taxes in each jurisdiction we operate in, taking into consideration different tax rates, non-deductible expenses, valuation of deferred tax assets, changes in tax laws and our expectations for future results.
We base our estimates of deferred income taxes on temporary differences between the assets and liabilities we report in our financial statements, and the assets and liabilities determined by the tax laws in the various countries we operate in. We record deferred income taxes in our financial statements based on our estimated future cash flows, which includes estimates of non-deductible expenses. If these estimates are not accurate, there could be a material impact on our net earnings and financial position.
Commencement of production stage
When we determine that a mining property has reached the production stage, capitalization of development ceases, and depreciation of the mining property begins and is charged to earnings. Production is reached when management determines that the mine is able to produce at a consistent or sustainably increasing level. This determination is a matter of judgment. See note 2 to the financial statements for further information on the criteria that we used to make this assessment.
Purchase price allocations
The purchase price related to a business combination or asset acquisition is allocated to the underlying acquired assets and liabilities based on their estimated fair values at the time of acquisition. The determination of fair value requires us to make assumptions, estimates and judgments regarding future events. The allocation process is inherently subjective and impacts the amounts assigned to individually identifiable assets and liabilities. As a result, the purchase price allocation impacts our reported assets and liabilities and future net earnings due to the impact on future depreciation and amortization expense and impairment tests.
Determination of joint control
We conduct certain operations through joint ownership interests. Judgment is required in assessing whether we have joint control over the investee, which involves determining the relevant activities of the arrangement and whether decisions around relevant activities require unanimous consent. Judgment is also required to determine whether a joint arrangement should be classified as a joint venture or joint operation. Classifying the arrangement requires us to assess our rights and obligations arising from the arrangement. Specifically, management considers the structure of the joint arrangement and whether it is structured through a separate vehicle. When structured through a separate vehicle, we also consider the rights and obligations arising from the legal form of the separate vehicle, the terms of the contractual arrangements and other facts and circumstances, when relevant. This judgment influences whether we equity account or proportionately consolidate our interest in the arrangement.
Controls and procedures
We have evaluated the effectiveness of our disclosure controls and procedures and internal control over financial reporting as of December 31, 2015, as required by the rules of the US Securities and Exchange Commission and the Canadian Securities Administrators.
Management, including our Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and our Chief Financial Officer (CFO), supervised and participated in the evaluation, and concluded that our disclosure controls and procedures are effective to provide a reasonable level of assurance that the information we are required to disclose in reports we file or submit under securities laws is recorded, processed, summarized and reported accurately, and within the time periods specified. It should be noted that, while the CEO and CFO believe that our disclosure controls and procedures provide a reasonable level of assurance that they are effective, they do not expect the disclosure controls and procedures or internal control over financial reporting to be capable of preventing all errors and fraud. A control system, no matter how well conceived or operated, can provide only reasonable, not absolute, assurance that the objectives of the control system are met.
Management, including our CEO and our CFO, is responsible for establishing and maintaining internal control over financial reporting and conducted an evaluation of the effectiveness of our internal control over financial reporting based on the Internal Control – Integrated Framework (2013) issued by the Committee of Sponsoring Organizations of the Treadway Commission (COSO). Based on this evaluation, management concluded that our internal control over financial reporting was effective as of December 31, 2015. We have not made any change to our internal control over financial reporting during the 2015 fiscal year that has materially affected, or is reasonably likely to materially affect, our internal control over financial reporting.
New standards and interpretations not yet adopted
A number of new standards and amendments to existing standards are not yet effective for the year ended December 31, 2015, and have not been applied in preparing these consolidated financial statements. Cameco does not intend to early adopt any of the following amendments to existing standards and does not expect the amendments to have a material impact on the financial statements, unless otherwise noted.
IFRS 15, Revenue from Contracts with Customers (IFRS 15) – In May 2014, the IASB issued IFRS 15 which is effective for periods beginning on or after January 1, 2018 and is to be applied retrospectively. IFRS 15 clarifies the principles for recognizing revenue from contracts with customers. The extent of the impact of adoption of IFRS 15 has not yet been determined.
IFRS 9, Financial Instruments (IFRS 9) – In July 2014, the IASB issued IFRS 9. IFRS 9 replaces the existing guidance in IAS 39, Financial Instruments: Recognition and Measurement (IAS 39). IFRS 9 includes revised guidance on the classification and measurement of financial assets, a new expected credit loss model for calculating impairment on financial assets and new hedge accounting requirements. It also carries forward, from IAS 39, guidance on recognition and derecognition of financial instruments.
IFRS 9 is effective for annual periods beginning on or after January 1, 2018, with early adoption of the new standard permitted. Cameco does not intend to early adopt IFRS 9. The extent of the impact of adoption of IFRS 9 has not yet been determined.
IFRS 16, Leases (IFRS 16) – In January 2016, the IASB issued IFRS 16 which is effective for periods beginning on or after January 1, 2019, with early adoption permitted. IFRS 16 eliminates the current dual model for lessees, which distinguishes between on-balance sheet finance leases and off-balance sheet operating leases. Instead, there is a single, on-balance sheet accounting model that is similar to current finance lease accounting. The extent of the impact of adoption of IFRS 16 has not yet been determined.