Uranium Still a Hot Topic Across Canada

Jamie Kneen Communications and Outreach Coordinator responsible for: strategic research, social media, and public engagement; our Africa program, environmental assessment, and uranium mining.

In December, 2007, MiningWatch Canada issued its long-awaited Policy Statement on Uranium Mining.

Requests for help in addressing uranium issues from all across Canada meant that we had to figure out exactly where we stood on uranium mining and exploration.

Our situation was not unique. The uranium exploration rush generated by high uranium prices is forcing communities and governments everywhere to decide where they stand on uranium exploration and mine development.

Since many of these communities are desperate for jobs and income, the decision to protect future generations from radiation exposure can be a very difficult one. In Nunavut, Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. and the Nunavut Planning Commission have decided to lift the moratorium on uranium exploration and mining, though any new projects in the Kivallik region will still have to be approved by the residents under the Keewatin Regional Land Use Plan. Areva Resources and its partners are working on a feasibility study for the Kiggavik uranium project near Baker Lake.

Recent news of the mismanagement of AECL’s Chalk River reactor, the radiation exposure of residents in Port Hope, and the flooded mine shafts at Cameco’s McArthur River, Cigar Lake, and Rabbit Lake mines do little to increase confidence in Canada’s nuclear safety.

Across the country, citizens are working together to protect themselves from new uranium mines and exploration:

On December 13, Chief Grace Conrad of the Native Council of Nova Scotia called on the provincial government of Nova Scotia to impose a permanent ban on uranium mining. A moratorium has been in place since the 1980s.

The same day, the Community Coalition Against Mining Uranium (CCAMU) based in the province of Ontario announced that they would hold public hearings throughout the eastern part of the province in the New Year on the environmental and health impacts of uranium mining. Other non-native opponents to the Frontenac uranium mine put the province of Ontario on legal notice, demanding public consultation and an eventual moratorium on uranium mining in the province. The opponents argue that the Ontario Mining Act, which was passed in 1868 and has changed little since, did not contemplate uranium and so infringes on the Charter’s guarantee to life, liberty and security of person.

In New Brunswick, citizens have mobilized to stop exploration by Vale Inco in the area between Sussex and Moncton. The New Brunswick government had granted the company a five year exploration licence.

In Quebec, Ecojustice (formerly Sierra Legal) and the West Quebec Coalition Against Mining Uranium (WQ-CAMU) are demanding answers from the Minister of Natural Resources and Wildlife concerning possible connections between the province’s recent decision to reject a moratorium on uranium exploration in western Quebec and mining claims held in the region by a government-owned corporation.

Concerns with uranium waste and radon gas are also a rallying point for citizens at Oka who are opposed to the proposed Niocan niobium mine. In November, Channel D television carried an hour long special on the issue.

In the Northwest Territories, on October 24, the federal cabinet upheld a recommendation by the Mackenzie Valley Environmental Impact Review Board to block Ur-Energy’s uranium exploration program on the Upper Thelon area east of Great Slave Lake. Last May, the board shocked the mining industry when it denied Ur-Energy’s plan to drill up to 20 holes near the Thelon River because it threatens the spiritual and cultural well-being of the Akaitcho Dene.

In Saskatchewan, late in 2006, Ecojustice filed an application to the Competition Bureau of Canada to conduct an inquiry into the Canadian Nuclear Association’s high-profile advertising campaign touting the benefits of nuclear power. The applicants, including public health, renewable energy, environmental, and religious groups across Canada, allege that claims made in television, radio and print ads promoting nuclear energy are misleading. A report on nuclear power in Canada was filed by the Pembina Institute in support of the application.

In Labrador, the Nunatsiavut (Inuit Government) Legislative Assembly is debating a motion from its Executive Board calling for a moratorium on uranium exploration on Inuit-owned lands. Public consultations have been held across the territory all fall.

And in British Columbia, the Uranium Free BC Coalition has been successfully fighting off proposed in situ leach uranium mining in the Kootenay/boundary area.