(Ottawa) In a recent letter sent to Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development (AANDC), the Hon. Bernard Valcourt, MiningWatch Canada calls on the federal government to uphold the Nunavut Impact Review Board’s (NIRB) ‘no-go’ recommendation for AREVA’s Kiggavik uranium mine proposal.
MiningWatch’s call comes after the French nuclear multinational AREVA pressured Minister Valcourt to overturn NIRB’s decision, despite clear opposition of affected communities and evidence of substantive social, cultural, and environmental risks and uncertainties the project would bring – including long term risks associated with the management of radioactive mining wastes. The lack of any start date for the project is also a major source of concerns and serves to amplify the risks and uncertainties identified by the review board.
“It is entirely inappropriate for a proponent to propose a major mining project without any start date, let alone wait until after a review has concluded to bring forward vital arguments and information related to substantial community concerns,” says Ugo Lapointe, Canada Program Coordinator for MiningWatch Canada.
Lapointe adds: “Overturning the NIRB recommendation would serve to further alienate Aboriginal peoples from regulatory processes, and erode trust between Inuit and the mining industry in Nunavut. Inuit would rightfully feel that their voice does not matter, despite the existence of a negotiated land claim agreement. To do such deep damage to this trust relationship for the benefit of a project that is unlikely to get off the ground for decades – if ever – would be extremely unfortunate.”
The mining watchdog is also concerned about the depressed uranium market and AREVA’s highly problematic financial situation, which further amplifies the risks and uncertainties facing the project. Lapointe explains, quoting the 2015’s World Nuclear Industry Status Report: “AREVA is technically bankrupt. Its share price dropped 90% from its peak value in 2007. The uranium and nuclear markets are in decline and even credit agencies like Standard & Poor’s (S&P) are downgrading companies or States too heavily invested in this industry. In fact, S&P recently downgraded AREVA’s credit rating to ‘junk’ (BB-), deep into the speculative domain.”
MiningWatch also points out that NIRB’s general conclusions are in line with another independent expert panel review on uranium mining issues, commissioned by the Quebec government and completed in May 2015, which concluded: “That it would be counter-indicated in the present context, to allow uranium mining operations in Quebec […] Many scientific and technological limitations and uncertainties still persist and numerous questions have yet to be answered. These limitations and uncertainties are exacerbated by the fact that uranium waste is radioactive and can pose a problem for thousands of years.”
Ugo Lapointe, MiningWatch Canada, [email protected], (514) 708-0134