Nova Scotia Legislates Uranium Ban – Sort Of.

On November 3, 2009, the Nova Scotia government passed a bill called the Uranium Exploration and Mining Prohibition Act. The purpose of the act is to “prohibit exploration for or mining of uranium in order to protect the health and safety of Nova Scotians and the quality of their environment.” MiningWatch commends the government of Nova Scotia for taking the initiative to legislate the moratorium that has been government policy since 1981. There is however a disconcerting loophole in the proposed act, and while the act is more permanent than the former policy it is weaker in its prohibitions.

Despite the stated purpose of the act uranium can be mined if it is being done in conjunction with another mineral and the concentration of uranium is below 0.01% (or 100 parts per million). While below the threshold of economic viability at current uranium prices this concentration could represent viable deposit if prices rise or extraction technology improves. This would create the potential for uranium mining so long as another mineral of interest occurred with the uranium as is commonly the case.

The earlier uranium moratorium prevented any further exploration when uranium concentrations above 0.01% were discovered – effectively blocking further disturbance of the area for exploration or extraction. Under the new law this protective measure has been removed. Areas with higher levels of uranium can now be explored and exploited, even if above the threshold of 0.01%. The uranium could not be extracted but would have to be disposed of in waste areas as per yet-to-be-developed regulations of the new Act.