Canada uranium updatePublished by MAC on 2007-07-14
Canada uranium update
14th July 2007
Following on from recent coverage of opposition to Frontenac Ventures [hyperlink Frontenac Ventures http://www.minesandcommunities.org/Action/press1558.htm], more communities in the Canadian provinces of New Brunswick, Ontario and Quebec are voicing their opposition to uranium exploration and mining on their properties and watershed areas.
Digging in - In our view: Property owners must get better notice when mineral rights are at stake
The Daily Gleaner (Appeared on page C7)
12th July 2007
Residents of Cambridge-Narrows are feeling as if they're on shaky ground these days.
And while that might not quite be true, they could very well be on very valuable land -- valuable to a mining company that's staked its claim on mineral rights on properties around the village.
Locals have been a bit thrown by the appearance of blue ribbons flapping from trees and skies full of helicopters. The ribbons indicate that property's mineral rights have been claimed. With blue ribbons coming out of the blue like this, it's no wonder villagers feel more than a bit bewildered.
They are worried about more than their own property rights. Many locals want to know what effect mining will have on the local watershed. Salmon habitat and groundwater supply are two concerns raised by the Canaan Washademoak Watershed Association.
The confusion all comes down to what you actually own when you own a home and the land it is on. You do own the land but not the rights to the minerals under it. Those rights are retained by the Crown. When a mining company believes there's a strong chance the minerals in the land might be valuable enough to make digging them out worthwhile, they stake a claim. That's when the little blue ribbons start popping up.
The mining company with its eye on Cambridge-Narrows is looking for uranium. Uranium is a heavy metal that's used as an energy source. It did not suddenly appear in the land under much of New Brunswick in large concentrations; in fact, it's been there for about the last 6.6 billion years. What it did suddenly do was jump in price to about $135 a pound from $10 a pound in the last 30 months. The price jumped because oil prices are high and that drives up the cost of alternative energy sources.
At $135 a pound, there's profit in them thar hills. And mining companies are looking for it right across New Brunswick. The province is going through its biggest mineral staking rush since 1953. Usually, about 3,000 stakes are claimed each year. So far this year, there's been between 11,000 and 12,000.
Cambridge-Narrows property owners will be learning all this and more about the Newfoundland mining company's plans at a meeting Saturday. That's because while a mining company can stake a claim on mineral rights on a property without talking to the property owner, they can't actually exercise those rights without talking to the owner. Or, as the mining act states, mining companies must make contact with property owners before any work of a damaging nature or that interferes with the owners' enjoyment or use of the land can happen.
But that makes none of this any less upsetting to the people who find blue ribbons flapping on their property. Mining companies would be wise to talk to property owners before the law requires them to do so.
The companies need to do a little public education on mineral rights before a village starts to feel under siege.
Reform mining legislation
11th July 2007
Many landowners in and near Sharbot Lake are finding themselves on the wrong side of an archaic law that gives prospectors expansive rights to hunt for minerals on other people's land.
A company called Frontenac Resources is hunting for uranium, the nuclear fuel. Several questions are in play at Sharbot Lake: an unresolved aboriginal land claim and locals' concerns about long-term pollution are the most significant.
Working these out is bound to be time-consuming and expensive. But a bigger problem is the collision between the rights of miners in Ontario and those of the people who own land that might have minerals on or under it. The situation is similar in other provinces; in the Outaouais, a company called Aldershot Resources has staked hundreds of square kilometres of mining claims.
The Ontario Ministry of Northern Development and Mines is clear that its purpose is to promote mining in Ontario. The government owns the mining rights on most land that now belongs to the Crown or ever did, and the government grants expansive rights to people with prospectors' licences to hunt for valuable minerals.
This is a fact of the Mining Act, and surface-rights holders can't be excused for not knowing how it affects their property. Still, that doesn't mean the system works the way it should.
Despite the plain meaning of the term "surface rights," people who hold them do not have the right to stop people from using the surface of a piece of land to prospect, claim, drill, and eventually mine on. Mining rights and surface rights have equal legal standing.
In fact, mining rights seem to supersede surface rights. When prospectors start digging around, they don't have to tell surface-rights owners they're doing it. They can cut trees down to use for stakes, dig holes and trenches to get samples and tape sections off -- all without ringing a doorbell or leaving a note.
In what seems to be an effort to placate surface-rights holders, the ministry says only about one claim in 10,000 ultimately leads to a working mine, and usually not until after 10 or 20 years of careful study. From a landowner's view, that could mean 10 or 20 years of workers traipsing over your land and of being unable to sell the surface rights for their ordinary value.
The rules should protect people who are using their surface rights to land for homes, cottages or businesses. Such changes don't have to be onerous but not making them leaves surface-rights holders at risk.
The existing law might have been acceptable when the Crown was first granting land to private citizens, often in vast parcels to people who planned to use it for its resources. It will not do in an age of high prices for desirable rural property, eco-tourism, retirement-project bed-and-breakfasts, and market-gardening. Mining is not always the highest and best use to which land can be put.
Opposed to area uranium mine - Protesters close Hwy. 7
8th July 2007
By AEDAN HELMER, Sun Media
Police closed a busy stretch of Highway 7 near Sharbot Lake Sunday, as protesters from the Ardoch Algonquin First Nations marched against a proposed uranium mine in the area.
Nearly 300 protesters, native and non-native, joined the rally against the planned development of a large open-pit mine on Robertsville Road, 100 km north of Kingston.
Sharbot Lake O.P.P. Const. Paige Whiting said the protest was “extremely peaceful” and major traffic headaches for returning weekend cottagers were avoided.
“We were simply there to ensure peace and for traffic control issues, but it went very well,” said Whiting.
“We obviously recognize the inherent right of citizens of Ontario to engage in lawful protest demonstrations, so when this kind of thing occurs we certainly have to err on the side of safety.”
Police rerouted traffic along detours during the hour-long demonstration.
The march was part of an ongoing protest at the proposed site of an open-pit uranium mine north of Sharbot Lake.
Frontenac Ventures, a uranium exploration company based in Sutton, Ont. owns claims to more than 8,000 hectares of land across the county, and announced plans on the company website to commence “an aggressive exploration and development program” in North Frontenac Township.
A statement on the website identified two properties with “potential for an open-pit operation.”
On June 28, native protesters blocked the entrance to the Robertsville site, setting up barricades to coincide with the June 29 National Day of Action.
Protest organizers say the land was never surrendered by the Ardoch Algonquins and the property is still rightfully theirs.
Last month, they sent a letter to Frontenac Ventures warning the company of the impending protest and requesting that they cease operations and leave the land.
Besides the ownership dispute, protesters are concerned over the health and environmental impact of a proposed uranium mine in their back yard.
There are fears that drilling will mobilize sedimentary uranium, spilling radioactive byproducts and waste into the groundwater and watershed, which flows into the Ottawa River system.
“Everything has been peaceful so far but we certainly have deployed police officers in strategic locations just to meet operational needs in the event a situation arose,” said Whiting.
“We’re definitely working to keep the lines of communication open between all the people and groups involved.”
Protesters move to highway junction; Group wants mine closed near Sharbot Lake
7th July 2007
Local news - A group of protesters who are blocking the entrance to a proposed uranium mine near Ardoch are expected to take their protest to the highway tomorrow.
The protesters are expected to march from the junction of Highways 509 and 7, where they currently stand, into Sharbot Lake at about 3 p.m. They will carry with them a petition they started last week, demanding a moratorium on the proposed mining.
For more than a week, members of the Sharbot Lake and Ardoch Algonquin First Nations communities - plus other local supporters and natives from Quebec and New York - have gathered on Highway 509 near Ardoch Road.
The group is stationed at the entrance to a proposed uranium mine site. Frontenac Ventures Corporation, a private mining company, has staked 400 claims over an area of almost 8,000 hectares in the North Frontenac area; Some of those prospective properties are on private property. Some are on Crown land. And much of that Crown land is currently the subject of negotiations between the local Algonquin communities and the provincial government.
Frank Morrison is a local resident who, when he was out gathering firewood last fall, discovered that part of his property had been staked by a mining company.
Since then, he and his wife have talked with various government representatives and joined forces with the native communities to fight against the proposed mine.
"A small band of white people went to the Ardoch nation," he said. "They have basically taken up the banner for something we would never have achieved ourselves."
Almost every day for over a week, Morrison has spent time at the proposed site, where local Algonquins and other supporters have set up camp in protest of the mine. At any given time, he said, there are probably about 20 to 25 natives outside of the mine site. They have set up a camp and will remain at the site "until there is basically total assurance by some government agency" that the proposed mining won't happen.
Yesterday, a representative from the mining company stopped by the site to request that the natives leave so the company can resume its work.
"The answer was no," Morrison said, adding that the company will return with a court injunction asking them to leave.
"The answer will still be no," Morrison said.
The group's next action is to drum up more support through the petition.
"We want to send hundreds of thousands of names to the federal government," Morrison said. The federal government controls uranium mining and has the power to stop the proposed mining.
"Hopefully, we can start to turn this insanity around."
In the next couple weeks, Morrison added, they hope to take the petition to surrounding communities, to raise awareness about the dangers of the uranium mine. They have speakers, flyers and a video - Uranium, narrated by native singer and activist Buffy Sainte-Marie.
The same area was the site of a uranium mine in the 1980s.
Some people who worked in those mines, Morrison said, died in their 30s of cancer. William Commanda, senior elder of the Algonquin Nation of the Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg in Quebec, stopped by the site earlier this week to show his support for the protest.
"His community has suffered from radiation pollution," Morrison said. "Three of his teenage nephews have cancer.... He knows the ravages of radiation poisoning firsthand."
He said that local residents - native and non-native - have asked Frontenac Ventures that they all sit down and that the company "give us the real truth."
He said he hasn't had any contact with Frontenac Ventures, which he said isn't unusual.
Someone who holds mining rights doesn't have to alert the surface rights owner before they stake the property. "They'll mail us 24-hours notice, and then there's absolutely nothing we can do to stop it," Morrison said.
"They'll bulldoze my bush and drill down into my property," to retrieve up to 100,000 tonnes of material, he said.
And because he and his wife don't own the mining rights to their property, Morrison said, they're powerless to stop it.
Ontario mining law differentiates between surface and mining rights. "Put simply, mining rights are the rights to the minerals located in, on or under the land," the Ministry of Northern Development and Mining website states. "Surface rights refer to any right of land that is not mining rights."
Morrison said he and his wife have already agreed that if they can't get a moratorium on the uranium mine, they'll sell their property to the local Algonquin tribes. Under Ontario's Mining Act of 1990, native reserves are among the lands which are not open for mineral collecting.
The local Algonquins are currently in the midst of land claim negotiations with the provincial government over some of the land already staked for mining by Frontenac Ventures.
Bob Potts is the principal negotiator for the Algonquins for the land claim negotiations with the provincial government.
The negotiations, he said, don't relate specifically to the uranium mining issue, but the mining "impacts very importantly on our land claim." If the Algonquins win the land claim, the land would be protected from mining by law.
Regardless of how the land claim issue is resolved, Potts said, "a lot of things need to be done [with regards to the mining] and we need more information."
Last week, Doreen Davis, chief of the Sharbot Lake Algonquin First Nation, told the Whig-Standard that she requested that the mining company vacate the land - which they did - and that they engage in a dialogue with the Algonquins about the best way to proceed.
"That's where it should have been from the beginning," she said. "There should have been a protocol."
Davis said she was not against the act of mining in the area, but rather the type of mining.
If it were a quartz mine, for example, she said, "there would be working relationships" between the company and members of the Algonquin community, who would receive job training and useful skills from working at the mine.
But "it's uranium, so that's kind of a whole different situation," she said.
Davis said she doesn't think uranium mining can be safely executed. "It's about the future generations. Everyone is at risk here."
Many Ontario landowners do not own the rights to the minerals beneath their land, but don't realize it until someone pays $25.50 to stake a claim. Some residents of Frontenac County can only hope their backyard does not become a uranium mine.
Roger Collier, The Ottawa Citizen - http://www.canada.com/ottawacitizen/news/city/story.html?id=8688acb7-89df-456d-b9dc-084d1f2c6f1b&p=1
7th July 2007
When Frank Morrison looks out his living room window, he doesn't see the drab, concrete face of an apartment building. He doesn't see a gas station, a Wal-Mart or a neighbour hovering over a barbecue. The only neighbours Mr. Morrison and his wife, Gloria, have are sugar maples and ironwoods, pines and poplars.
It was the rolling meadow and the streams that drew Mrs. Morrison to these 100 acres in North Frontenac. But for Mr. Morrison, it was the trees. He spends much of his time in his forest, thinning overgrown areas, clearing trails, collecting the nine cords he cuts each year for firewood.
Last November, Mr. Morrison discovered he wasn't the only one spending time in his woods. Some of his trees were scarred with long, shallow notches. A few had been lopped off, metal tags bearing the Ontario trillium symbol affixed to the metre-high stumps left behind. Others wore pink ribbons.
He was displeased, to put it mildly, that his trees had met with an axe that wasn't his own. But who had done it? He thought it may have been Ontario Hydro, until he inspected the tags.
"This is not Hydro," Mr. Morrison recalls thinking. "This is a prospector."
In 1996, a two-line ad in the Citizen led the Morrisons to this parcel of land west of Perth. What they didn't know then was that beneath the streams and meadows and trees lay something that would become, 11 years later, one of the most sought after materials on earth: uranium.
Since that day in November, other North Frontenac residents have found pink ribbons on their trees, and they've learned, much to their surprise, that they only own the surface of their land and not what's buried beneath. (The majority of Ontario landowners, however, own both.) They've also learned about a 139-year-old piece of Ontario legislation that allows mining prospectors "free entry" to their properties.
Landowners' rights groups say it's ridiculous that the mining industry enjoys privileged access to private land thanks to an ancient law that should have been quashed years ago. Some say it amounts to "legalized trespassing." But no matter how many private landowners cry foul, one thing has become painstakingly clear: Canadian mining laws are set in stone.
It is because of these laws, and the world's increasing appetite for uranium, that Canada is enjoying a surge in exploration for the silvery-white metal. Prospectors have been busy all over the country, from the Athabasca Basin in northern Saskatchewan to the Thelon Basin in the North West Territories; from Happy Valley, N.L., to Kettle Valley, B.C.
In West Quebec, Vancouver-based Aldershot Resources Ltd. has staked nearly 40,000 acres for uranium exploration --mostly in Fort-Coulonge, La Peche and Shawville -- and Hawk Uranium Ltd. of Toronto has been active on Grand-Calumet Island. In North Frontenac, a company called Frontenac Ventures Corp. has staked more than 400 claims, including the one on Mr. Morrison's property, covering an area 20 kilometres long and six kilometres wide.
Why the sudden interest in uranium? Punch the words "uranium" and "stock price" into Google and you'll quickly find the answer. A graph of the price history of uranium over the past few years would be steep enough to make a Sherpa cringe. With a spot price of $135 U.S. a pound, it costs 19 times what it did just seven years ago.
Uranium is primarily used as fuel in nuclear power reactors. With so many energy-hungry countries looking to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, nuclear power, which doesn't produce any, is becoming a popular option to keep air conditioners running. Problem is, the world's uranium supply is being consumed at almost twice the rate it's being mined. That means it's a good time to be dealing in uranium but, as Mr. Morrison has learned, a bad time to be living above it.
Before moving to North Frontenac, Mr. Morrison, 62, lived in Ottawa for more than 30 years. But having grown up in Cape Breton, he's always been, at heart, a small-town guy. Since retiring from his career in marketing and promotions, he rarely returns to the city.
The Morrisons' rustic home is made from their own trees. It took two years to build. Mr. Morrison did most of the grunt work himself. Before the house was finished, they stayed in a cabin that Mr. Morrison had built entirely by hand, without power tools. It didn't have running water or hydro, not that it mattered.
"We spent the best Christmases in the world there," says Mr. Morrison.
It is little surprise, then, that when he felt his rural paradise was under threat, Mr. Morrison educated himself on what he could do to save it. He called the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines. He called the Ministry of Natural Resources. He called environmental groups. The more people he talked to, the less he liked what he was hearing. "I was finding out that you can't fight city hall," says Mr. Morrison. "And city hall is the mining industry."
Landowners must pay taxes to maintain rights to minerals buried beneath their properties. To save money, many Canadians have forfeited their "mineral rights" to the government, leaving them only with what is referred to as "surface rights." When a property is sold, the buyer cannot reclaim the forfeited rights.
According to the Ontario Mining Act, passed in 1868 and changed little since, if you're at least 18 years old and have $25.50, you can purchase a prospector's licence and stake a mining claim on private property, as long as the property's owner doesn't possess its mineral rights. Claims cannot, however, be staked on certain areas, such as gardens, orchards, "pleasure grounds," or on land containing homes or churches. Prospectors don't have to notify landowners before or after staking claims.
If a mining company is interested in a claim, it can lease the mineral rights from a prospector and begin exploratory work, which could entail clearing trees (which the company doesn't have to replace) to make roads, digging trenches (which the company doesn't have to fill if it removes less than 10,000 cubic metres of soil), or drilling holes (from which the company can remove 1,000 tonnes of rock). Mining companies can begin exploration within 24 hours of notifying landowners.
Prospectors and miners enjoy these privileges thanks to the "law of free entry."
"It's a law that made sense 150 years ago," says Karen Campbell, a lawyer with a Canadian environmental organization called the Pembina Institute. "It's completely outdated for today's age."
When Canadian mining laws were written, practically everyone believed mining was the best use of land, says Ms. Campbell. Privileged access to land encouraged people to move to remote areas and develop mines.
Few people lived in these areas, so few private landowners were affected. Mines were also much smaller in scale.
"Back then, a mine wasn't what it is today. Today's mines are major operations with massive impacts. They move massive piles of rock and you can have perpetual pollution," she says. "And now people are trying to mine where other people live."
The reason mining laws have changed so little, Ms. Campbell says, is because the mining industry still wields a lot of influence in Canada. The free entry system has been in place for so long, she says, that miners have developed a "psychology of entitlement."
"It's high time government repealed it, unless someone can make a compelling case to keep it," she says. "I'd be interested in hearing what folks in the mining industry would say is a compelling reason why they should have access to retirees' cottage properties."
Roy Denomme, senior manager of mining lands for the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines, says there is a compelling reason to keep the free entry system. Two reasons, actually.
"It provides a level playing field and it's a very simple process," says Mr. Denomme.
Critics of free entry want the ministry to give everyone back their mineral rights and only allow prospectors access to Crown land. But that's not going to happen, says Mr. Denomme. "It's a Crown resource, and we want to make sure it's explored and developed to better the economy."
Besides, only one per cent of private landowners in Ontario don't own their mineral rights, he says. (According to the Bedford Mining Alert, it is approximately two per cent.) And it's only an unhappy few, mostly in eastern Ontario, making any fuss. Even if staked, the chances are slim -- one in 10,000 claims, according to the mining ministry -- that a mine will ever open in somebody's backyard. But if people want to guarantee that miners never step foot on their properties, Mr. Denomme says they should only buy properties with attached mineral rights.
"People spend more time checking out a car than they do a piece of land."
Many Canadians who have had their land staked admit they didn't know what mineral rights were, let alone who owned them, when they bought their properties. Still, they are astonished that today's provincial governments would allow miners such easy access to private land. Their astonishment turns to worry when they learn how much damage miners have caused to some people's quality of life.
In 2006, a man from Vernon, B.C., discovered that a nearby recluse who lived in a truck --and was known to wander after dark wearing night-vision goggles and carrying a rifle -- had staked a claim on his land. After seeing the prospector lurking near his home, the rancher moved his daughter and wife to another house and bought a guard dog. A man in Westport, Ont., couldn't get liability insurance on his 13-acre property last year after discovering 20 trenches, some 100 metres long and three metres deep, that had been dug by a prospector looking for graphite. In 2004, a B.C. court ordered a Kamloops couple off their ranch so a company could begin strip-mining for diatomaceous earth, which is used to make kitty litter.
So what can you do if you drive to your cottage this summer only to find it's become a prospector's playground? Truth is, not much. You can launch a protest to the mining ministry within one year of the claim date, but if the prospector has followed the rules, you'll probably lose. Then again, as one North Frontenac man discovered, prospectors do make mistakes.
Don Huff's property was staked in March, by the same prospector who staked his neighbour's property. But the prospector had staked along incorrect property lines. So Mr. Huff's neighbour secured a prospector's licence, and the pair staked their own claim.
"We're not against mining," says Mr. Huff. "But if there is mining, we want to have control."
As for Mr. Morrison, he's not looking to get around free entry laws; he's decided to fight on a different front: the environment. He's joined with other North Frontenac residents who believe uranium mining will contaminate the earth and poison the water. The group held a meeting a couple of months ago and a hundred people showed up. They held a two-day protest at a Frontenac Ventures' work site in late June. Their ultimate goal: a ban on uranium mining.
George White, the 74-year-old owner of Frontenac Ventures Corporation, isn't worried. He says the anti-mining crowd is trying to scare everybody else with 50-year-old environmental horror stories. Mining today, says Mr. White, is heavily regulated and poses little environmental risk.
Most of the people he's spoken to are in favour of mining, says Mr. White. He's approached more than a dozen residents who own their mineral rights and only one has refused to lease them to Frontenac Ventures, he says.
If his company's exploratory work, which is set to begin soon and may last for five years, ever leads to the opening of a mine, Mr. White says it would be a boon for the region. It could mean up to 600 jobs. To him, the question facing North Frontenac residents is easy. "Do you want prosperity with an environmentally responsible company," he says. "Or do you want to sit back and be negative and put your heads in the sand?"
Conflicts like the one happening in North Frontenac are becoming increasingly frequent in Ontario. Frequent enough that the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines is planning on making a few concessions.
It is considering a proposal that will require prospectors to notify landowners within 60 days of staking a claim. Mining companies may soon have to notify landowners each time they plan on doing exploratory work instead of just before the first time. The ministry may also adopt a "paper staking" process, which will allow prospectors to stake claims without entering property at all. But these changes, if they do occur, will offer little peace of mind to Mr. Morrison. At any time, miners can drag a five-tonne drill onto his land and there is little he can do to stop them.
"It's a kick in the guts," he says. "I can sit here for 10, 15, 20 years, on pins and needles, waiting for the other uranium shoe to drop."
Uranium rising - Plan to mine radioactive ore generates controversy in Moncton, New Brunwick
by CHRIS ARSENAULT, The Dominion - http://www.dominionpaper.ca/articles/1270
6th July 2007
One of the largest and most profitable mining companies in the world -- a company that received a failing grade on the Globe and Mail's corporate social responsibility survey -- is prospecting for the radioactive ore near Moncton, New Brunswick.
CVRD-Inco spent roughly $4 million to buy exclusive uranium prospecting rights for the next year on a 136,000-hectare area between Sussex and Moncton. The area includes land bordering the city of Moncton's watershed, which supplies drinking water for 100,000 residents.
New Brunswick Health Minister and Moncton MLA Mike Murphy has stated unequivocally that there will be no mine in the watershed, but according to Department of Natural Resources spokesman Brent Roy, Minister Murphy doesn't have the legislative authority to make that call.
"Prospecting just happens to intersect with the northern tip of the watershed and this is a legal legislative activity," said Roy in an interview. "In order to say 'no' [to mining in the watershed], we would have to change the law."
"The mining industry isn't in the business of taking 'no' for an answer," said Dr. Mark Winfield, a nuclear analyst with the Pembina Institute.
But they're hardly alone. Despite Health Minister Murphy's assurances that CVRD-Inco will not open a mine, Roy feels otherwise.
"The price of uranium is really high right now and we should be looking for it if we want to be in business," Roy said.
"Existing mines in northern Saskatchewan have caused severe contamination through heavy metals like arsenic, and long-lived radionuclides, along with conventional pollutants," said Winfield. In 2004, Health Canada concluded that effluent from uranium mines meets the definition of a toxic substance under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act.
"There's no such thing as 100 per cent safe," said Moncton City Councillor Steve Boyce. "We've been assured [of environmental safety] by CVRD-Inco, the same company that has been charged with dumping mine tailings into a brook in Ontario."
In an interview, CVRD-Inco spokesman Cory McPhee stated the obvious: "The ultimate goal is to explore for resources and open a mine."
So, it looks like two camps are digging in for a good old-fashioned showdown. Elements within the provincial government, and of course the mining company, are on one side pushing for the project, while Moncton City Council and environmental groups are hoping to bury it.
On the surface, it looks like the impending showdown could be characterized by what some corporate consultants call a NIMBY (Not In My Backyard) campaign. But CVRD-Inco's mining plans, and government support for them, dig at something a little deeper in New Brunswick provincial politics.
In early June, Premier Shawn Graham received a standing ovation during an address to the Canadian Nuclear Society when he stated that the "possibility of a second nuclear unit at Point Lepreau is very interesting to us and will be closely examined."
It seems as though power and the desire for it, specifically nuclear power, runs in the Graham family. Alan R. Graham, father of Premier Shawn Graham, sits on the Atomic Energy Control Board (AECB), the federal agency responsible for enforcing health, safety, security and environmental standards related to nuclear energy.
As a member of the AECB, Alan Graham, a Liberal party stalwart appointed to the board in 1998, is responsible for issuing licenses for nuclear activities, one of which may come from the N.B. government, led by his son.
Unearthing a little more toxic bureaucracy, the Atomic Energy Control Board reports to Parliament through the minister of natural resources, rather than the minister of the environment.
"The Department of Natural Resources is not in the business of protecting the environment; they're in the business of development," said Councillor Boyce.
Thus, if the AECB is making a tough decision between a potentially dangerous mine and economic development, the board has political interest in siding with development, due to the mandate of the department it reports to.
Nova Scotia enacted a formal moratorium on uranium mining in 1982.
"Politicians were responding to public outcry," said Rick Ratcliffe, spokesman for the Nova Scotia Department of the Environment. Notice, it's the Department of the Environment, rather than the Ministry of Natural Resources that now administers uranium mining policy in Nova Scotia.
"CVRD-Inco didn't put the uranium there," said Corey McPhee, who has worked at Inco for the last 17 years. "We have a 100-year history of mining and mining responsibly."
'Responsible' is the last word Tracy Glynn, a staffer at the New Brunswick Conservation Council, would use to describe Inco.
Glynn wrote her masters thesis in Indonesia, where Inco operates a major mining complex.
In 2005, Glynn found that Inco was providing local communities with bacteria-contaminated water. Inco's senior employees, mostly from Canada and Australia, were given clean, filtered water.
"No local people were employed as managers at the company's Indonesian operations," said Glynn, who spent time with affected communities. "The young people would have frequent protests calling for employment at the mine."
When giving Inco a failing grade in its 2005 Corporate Social Responsibility Survey, the Globe and Mail noted that company policies had led to "strained community relations at nickel projects in New Caledonia [an island in the South Pacific] and Guatemala."
"Inco has been trying for about 10 years to get the huge Goro Nickle mine up and running in New Caledonia," said Catherine Coumans, a policy expert with Mining Watch Canada, a union-funded, non-governmental organization based in Ottawa.
"The mining permit they were granted in 2004 was yanked," said Coumans, who said Inco has been more or less ignoring the order. Many of New Caledonia's residents are indigenous people who have been "fighting Inco tooth and nail; taking them to court, blocking roads and burning equipment," said Coumans.
New Caledonia has some of the highest biodiversity on Earth. Inco's operations there have already destroyed eco-systems that may have included previously undiscovered plant and animal species, said Coumans.
"We think we are improving, in terms of corporate social responsibility," said CVRD-Inco spokesman Cory McPhee. "An example of that might be seen in our New Caledonia project where we have begun sitting down and talking with the community." Coumans agreed that community relations have improved in New Caledonia since Inco was bought out by CVRD of Brazil in 2006.
However, New Caledonia is but one of the company's trouble-spots. In Montreal, on November 13, 2006, Mining Watch Canada brought together a panel made up of community leaders from Indonesia, Guatemala, New Caledonia and Canada, who discussed their struggles against Inco. Those fighting against the mine worry that New Brunswick may have a delegate at events like this in the future.
And according to Dr. Winfield, the potential health and environmental impacts of the mine are not balanced out by any positive ones.
"The inter-governmental panel on climate change was very clear that nuclear [energy] can't compete economically," he said. "New Brunswick has better options for energy: a lot of coast line, a lot of wind, tidal power.
"They should be pursuing these options before going down this [nuclear] path."
URANIUM MINING: OPPONENTS GETTING ORGANIZED
Conservation Council of New Brunswick News Release
For immediate publication
22nd June 2007
Moncton, June 22 2007 - The Petitcodiac Riverkeeper and the Conservation Council of New Brunswick announced today that they are joining forces in support of a ban on all mining exploration in New Brunswick watersheds.
"When it comes to our watersheds, and particularly our main sources of drinking water, our tolerance to risk must be zero," pointed out Michel Desjardins, Chairman of the Petitcodiac Riverkeeper.
The two organizations are particularly concerned by the province's announcement that an exploration permit has been granted to CVRD Inco Limited, a prospecting company looking for uranium deposits near Turtle Creek.
"Our research on this issue shows that the history of uranium mining exploitation in Canada does little to reassure the public. For example, in 1989, two million litres of radioactive water spilled into Wollaston Lake in Saskatchewan as a result of uranium mining activity. We also know that,
in 1976, all fifty-five miles of the Serpent River system near Elliot Lake, Ontario, were badly contaminated by uranium mining. Why take a risk, any risk at all when it comes to our water, especially our drinking water?" questioned Mr. Coon.
According to the two representatives, other groups share this concern. Public meetings have already been held in the Cocagne area, where many properties have been earmarked by prospectors. The two groups plan to rally associations and individuals concerned with this issue to create a common front. "We propose to create a coalition to oppose uranium exploration and mining in all provincial watersheds," added Michel Desjardins.
In Nova Scotia, a moratorium on uranium exploration and mining has been in place since 1985.
The organizations used the opportunity to issue a challenge to the Premier. "We challenge Premier Graham to join us on a uranium mission in northern Saskatchewan. Mr. Graham should see for himself how uranium threatens the health of mine workers and in communities surrounding the mines" said Desjardins.
The Adverse Affects of Mining Uranium [PDF]
For more information, contact:
David Coon, Policy Director
Conservation Council of New Brunswick
Michel Desjardins, Chairman
Cell : 851-1580
Our Story: Uranium Prospecting in our Backyard
12th June 2007
Prepared by: Gloria Morrison
This past January, I was interviewed on CBC’s national radio program As It Happens. Journalist Carol Off asked what I had learned since I discovered that our land had been staked for uranium mining exploration.
I want to share the heart-wrenching questions that my husband and I are left to ponder as we await the bulldozers, chain saws and earth moving equipment to begin their destruction of our much beloved paradise.
During the first week of October 2006 my husband Frank was out collecting firewood to top up our winter supply. We own 100 acres of land, of which 80 acres is mixed woodlot and 20 acres is rolling meadow. He came upon an area where several of our trees had been severed, and the four feet of trunk that was still protruding from the ground where the trees once were had been squared into posts, were tagged and had notes made on the newly razed trunks. The steel tags had numbers and the emblem for the province of Ontario. The pen writing included a date from the previous week and a man’s name. Besides the several severed posts there were about 30 trees that had been ‘blazed’ along approximately a 1200 foot line of pink marking tape.
At that time, Frank correctly guessed that our land had been staked for mining. We had not received any notification or warning that this was going to happen.
After the first Stake is sunk
What we have learned about this situation since that time is the following. As surface rights owners we truthfully have no rights to protect our land. The mining company, through their prospector, can enter our land at will without advising us. According to the 1870s mining law of Ontario, for the purposes of staking, prospectors are permitted to cut down our trees to create posts and blaze others to mark a trail.
During the assessment phase, which can go on for as long as 15 or 20 years, they can dig large trenches and deep holes, cut down trees, remove thousands of tons of soil and rock and bring in whatever equipment is necessary to do this. As the surface rights owners we are entitled to compensation in some instances, according to the law. In reality we have learned that the cost to pursue this is always in excess of what one could ever hope to recover. And of course this is always after the fact. My understanding is that the issue of compensation is that it is ‘a cruel joke.’
In our area, as of this date, a total of 70 claims have been staked; 54 by Frontenac Ventures Corporation and 16 by RJK Explorations. The majority of these claims are on Crown land. From the enquiries I have made to the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR), the stewards of our Crown land, it seems that once Crown land is staked it is under the ‘care’ of the Ministry of Northern Development and Mining. (MNDM - the website for the Ministry of Northern Development and Mining is clear: their mandate is to promote the interests of mining.)
When I reacted in horror to this information, each of the individuals I spoke with at the Ministry of Natural Resources said that perhaps they were wrong and someone more knowledgeable from the MNR would get back to me. Several months later, when the promised return phone calls had not materialized, I again called the MNR and this time I did receive a response from our area supervisor in Tweed.
He informed me that once Crown land was staked it then fell under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Northern Development and Mining. When I protested that this was unreasonable given the mandate of MNDM he stated the plain truth; the power of the MNDM supersedes that of the MNR. Other than issuing standard permits for things such as the construction of roads, the MNR no longer held jurisdiction. There was nothing the MNR could do to help us.
My question today is the following: who will do the important task of monitoring what happens on our precious Crown land in our area?
We are also facing the consequences of uranium mining. My question is fundamental: what are the possible health and environmental repercussions of uranium being extracted in our backyard, literally?
For me, the most fearful prospect of this reality is that it seems there are no regulations or environmental groups who monitor the activities of mining companies during the assessment phase, prior to the actual decision to mine. Again, when I reacted with fear I was told by all the individuals in the various ministries I have contacted that I could claim compensation if any harm is done.
But what is reasonable compensation when our air, water and soil are contaminated and our health is affected?
If a surface rights owner finds the evidence that their land has been staked the only recourse they have, if they are not in agreement, is to file a Dispute. This is done through the Ministry of Northern Development and Mining. Again, it is important to keep in mind that the mandate of this ministry is to promote the mining interests.
The Dispute must be filed within one year from the time the staked land was registered. After that one year period the surface rights owner has no recourse to lodge their dissatisfaction. Frank and I plan to do this, although we have already been warned not to get our hopes up. The mining interests are extremely powerful.
Our connection with the Land
Frank and I have both lived in Ottawa for most of our adult lives. Beginning in 1990 we started looking for the perfect piece of land in the country to use for recreation now and eventually retire on. In 1996 we fell in love, ‘at first sight’ with a property that had the wonderful mixed forest that Frank wanted, as well a decent meadow area that would support growing herbs and vegetables.
It also included what always moves my heart – wonderful streams and huge rock boulders. It was also within 90 minutes of Ottawa. It did not include any structures or services but we had found our dream property so we would manage. That first fall, Frank started building a tiny cabin to serve as basic shelter, until such time as we could build a proper home. The cabin he built measures 10 feet by 14 feet, has no amenities except a wood stove, and was completely constructed by hand with no power tools. It served as our retreat until we moved, permanently from Ottawa, in 2002. It still serves as backup for visitors and although not a thing of beauty to others, it is a constant emblem of Frank’s hard work and his love of the land.
The modest log cabin that is now our home was built from a stand of trees on our own land. We decided not to install hydro and instead manage with a solar powered system. We have an open concept, small home and heat entirely with a high efficiency wood stove. Of course this means that we are very conscious of our energy needs and our lifestyle is much more physical than many would care for, but we do not mind.
We share our land with many animals including bears, wolves, coyotes, partridges and wild turkeys. We love this wild and rugged terrain. Our 80 acres of forest has a registered plan – under the Managed Forest System. It is designated as recreation land for animals and people with the focus on trails and natural growth, with particular attention to the healthy maturing of a mixed variety of trees.
Frank has spent 10 years clearing and grooming this land. When we contacted the Managed Forest Group for help when we realized the land had been staked, they advised us that not only could they not help us against the mining interests, but that we could expect to lose our designation under the managed forest plan; hence, our taxes would drastically rise.
Our hope has always been to pass this little bit of heaven on to our children. We are now facing the reality that not only have our dreams disintegrated but we are left with a property for which -although it took a lifetime of effort to pay for- the market value is most uncertain. Who would buy land expecting that trenches and huge holes can be dug, vast amounts of soil removed, trees cut, terrain disturbed in any number of ways, and large equipment coming and going at the mining company’s will.
What does the Future hold?
Do we continue to care and groom and put our remaining time and energy into a property we love, knowing that on any given day, with a mere 24 hours notice, the mining company can walk right in and start work?
Nor is this just our heartbreak. In the initial assessment phase, if our water and soil is contaminated many people will be affected. The water from our creeks flows into the Mississippi River, which supplies water for many communities that border the city of Ottawa. As well, assessment work on the vast amount of crown land captured in these claims has ramifications for our area, which is known as the Land O’ Lakes, where tourism and recreational purposes dominate the use of land.
Looking twenty years into the future, there is no doubt that an actual on-site uranium mining operation would unequivocally change this region. But the possible ramifications go far beyond that. In my mind, I have always envisioned our forested region with its fresh running waters as the ‘environmental filter’ for our neighboring urban cities. In one generation that ‘filter’ could not only vanish, but be replaced with a hazard that no one can truthfully predict the consequences of.
The Township of North Frontenac is a large, beautiful, rugged terrain comprising a total of 108,694 hectares, of which 61,863 hectares are designated as Crown land. Almost 80% of the township’s small population is seasonal. For those who live here full time, only 1904 souls, it can be a modest lifestyle with few employment opportunities and services. The mining company, I have no doubt, took this into consideration when choosing to stake in our area. Obviously the uranium deposits are here, but this is also a milieu where there are few voices to protest and the area is known to be economically ‘humble’ and without the economic resources of other, more affluent parts of Ontario.
This is a David and Goliath story. We need the voices of other people from Ontario, as well as from Canadians across this land to join with us to demand rights as property owners. All across this country, each and every province is in desperate need of decent and responsible laws for the mining of minerals.
The ultimate reason for every Canadian to add their voice to the call for change relates to our physical planet. No matter how high the value of uranium may climb, it will never be enough to compensate us for the loss of a healthy planet to live on.