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Comments on CNSC Licensing of Matoush Project

May 16, 2012

Louise Levert
Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission
280 Slater St., P.O. Box 1046
Ottawa, Ontario K1P 5S9

Sent by email to:

Dear Ms. Levert,

MiningWatch Canada would like to submit these comments on the potential licencing of Strateco’s proposed Matoush Uranium Advanced Exploration Project to the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission.

MiningWatch has been following this project since 2010 and was a participant in the hearings held for the assessments conducted under the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement, submitted written comments to the federal and provincial review panels and to the CNSC for their comprehensive study under CEAA.

MiningWatch remains very concerned that this project is proceeding without adequate analysis and disclosure of potential impacts on local hydrology and water quality and without the consent of the Mistissini Cree and against a growing opposition to uranium mining in Quebec.

Throughout our interventions we have repeatedly pointed to the lack of a water balance for the ramp Strateco is proposing to build into permeable and fractured sandstone well below the water table in an area with many lakes and wetlands at the surface. We note that the licensing recommendation made by CNSC staff (April 14, 2012) indicates some further work was done. Strateco is now claiming that 40 m3/hr is a more likely volume of mine water needing to be removed, treated and discharged then the estimate of 100 m3/hr that was included in previous applications and the proponent’s EIS.

The “Screening Level Risk Assessment” that used existing drill holes and the knowledge of existing mines to determine the lower inflow rate has not, to our knowledge been made publicly available and thus we have no confidence in this estimate. It certainly is at the extreme low end of expected dewatering requirements. In fact, the February 2012 Technical Report by Roscoe Postle Associates indicates an estimated mine seepage rate of “0,5 m3/s for a 1,000 m long, 600 m deep mine”. This rate of 0.5 m3/s or 1,800 m3/ hr is 45 times greater then the “more probable” rate that CNSC staff have accepted.

The water balance and additional analysis of impacts to water quality and hydrology should have been included in the EIS and reviewed during this earlier processes. Given the failure of Strateco the federal review panel and CNSC to meet this expectation and the contradictory information presented in the Technical Report, the supplemental information (Screening Level Risk Assessment, etc.) must be made available for public and Aboriginal review and consultation prior to issuing a licence.

Also related to water quality we note that despite the suggestion that the project is designed to meet water quality objectives of the Metal Mining Effluent Regulations and additionally for molybdenum, selenium, and uranium (Sec 3.9.1) no criteria for molybdenum, selenium or uranium are listed or included in the proposed Appendix B of the licence. We would suggest following the Canadian Water Quality Guidelines for the Protection of Aquatic Life and applying effluent criteria of 73 ug/L and 33 ug/L for molybdenum and uranium respectively. As there is no CWQG for selenium we suggest the EPA guideline of 5ug/L. We would also note that the MMER are not necessarily consistent with lowest achievable effluent concentrations and are not protective of downstream aquatic ecosystems. A much more detailed presentation of effluent characterisation and potential impacts is warranted.

We are perplexed as to why the only “Administrative Criteria” listed are for pH and TSS. Why would each of the measured and potentially regulated contaminants not warrant an administrative response? We suggest a criteria for all of the MMER parameters as well as molybdenum, selenium and uranium.

With respect to Aboriginal consultation and social acceptability we are concerned that the staff report greatly under-represents the opposition to the project proceeding. For example, the report does not cite the Cree of Mistissini’s call for a pause on proceeding with the regulatory process. Nor is Chief Shecapio’s statement that the project contradicted fundamental Cree values included (presentation made at hearing in Mistissini on Nov 23, 2010).

While the Crown’s duty to consult is frequently cited in the report, the authors have failed to acknowledge the accompanying duty to accommodate Aboriginal interests in decision making. There is no analysis as to if or how Aboriginal interests have been accommodated in the current process.

The report also fails to acknowledge expectations under the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which demands the Free Prior Informed Consent of Indigenous Peoples. Clearly FPIC has not been obtained for this project and CNSC should not permit its further development without it.

The CNSC should respect the demand from Quebec citizens for a public discussion on the future of uranium mining in the province. The concern around Quebec becoming a uranium producer and continuing to use nuclear power is powerfully demonstrated by the 320 municipalities that have endorsed a call for a moratorium on uranium exploration and mining and ending plans to refurbish Gentilly II.

It is also important for the CNSC to recognise that the project’s latest Technical Report (Feb. 2012) assumes a uranium price of $80/lb. This is well above the current price and indicates that the project may not be financially viable at current uranium prices. Given this, licencing the project against local and Quebec-wide concerns and without adequate technical information would be a highly irresponsible decision.

MiningWatch unequivocally recommends the licence for this project not be granted and requests to present an oral submission our concerns at the public hearings in Mistissini on June 5.


Ramsey Hart