MAC: Mines and Communities

Canadian doctors renew threat to resign over uranium

Published by MAC on 2010-03-31
Source: CBC News

Last December, twenty doctors in Quebec tendered their resignations in protest at uranium prospecting in the region of Sept-Iles. See:

While they didn't resign at the time, the doctors are once more threatening to quit their posts.

They are angered that the government has rejected a moratorium on mining and exploration - even before it has heard the findings of a provincial research panel on uranium's health effects.

Anti-uranium doctors renew threat to resign

CBC News

22 March 2010

Nearly two-dozen doctors in Sept-Îles, Quebec, are renewing their threats to resign and leave the province after the government rejected calls for a moratorium on uranium mining and exploration in the region.

The province decided against a moratorium before hearing from a provincial panel researching the health effects of uranium mining, said psychiatrist Dr. Isabelle Gingras, one of the north shore doctors who is threatening to resign.

In December, Dr. Alain Poirier, the chief public health officer in Quebec, announced the creation of a special committee to study the potential effects of uranium exploration and mining on the health of the population.

Gingras is a member of the committee, which was set up after 23 doctors at the Sept-Îles Hospital threatened to resign unless the province banned uranium mining and exploration, which they called a threat to public health.

"If there is risk to this industry and the government still wants to go ahead, I will eventually leave the province," Gingras said Sunday.

The rejection of a moratorium follows a petition to the Quebec national assembly, signed by 14,000 residents, supporting the call for the moratorium.

Serge Simard, the junior minister for natural resources, has said that no mining project in the region would be approved without the support of the local population.

But in response to the petition, Simard wrote a letter saying a moratorium would not be justified.

"He doesn't care about the people of Sept-Îles," said Marc Fafard, a spokesperson and founder of a grassroots group opposed to uranium mining. "There won't be any moratorium and he even stated that exploration will go on."

Government studying impact

Fafard said the rejection of calls for a moratorium is a betrayal of residents who want a halt to exploration.

"People are really mad," he said. "People are disappointed. The minister had said publicly, on TV, in the national assembly, that if the Sept-Îles people didn't want to have uranium mining project in their town, they wouldn't."

Gingras and Fafard said they intend to present briefs this spring to a national assembly commission studying proposed changes to the province's mining laws this spring.

The legislation would tighten environmental controls on mining companies operating in Quebec.

Residents of Sept-Îles, which is about 600 km northeast of Quebec City, have staged vocal protests against uranium exploration underway in the region.

The uranium debate began more than a year ago after mining company Terra Ventures Inc. began exploration near Lake Kachiwiss, about 20 kilometres north of Sept-Îles.

Residents have expressed concern that tailings from uranium mining and exploration could affect the quality of the air and contaminate local drinking water.

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