MAC: Mines and Communities

Canada Uranium update

Published by MAC on 2007-08-07

Canada Uranium update

7th August 2007

Concerned citizens in New Brunswick respond to comments made by the province's Minister of Natural Resources on uranium prospecting in the province.

Uranium mining has no place in N.B.

Published Tuesday August

7th August 2007

Times & Transcript -
To The Editor:

This letter is in response to the July 24 article in the Times & Transcript on Page A5: NB Must Pursue Uranium.

Reading the comments made by our Minister of Natural Resources, Donald Arsenault, one is lead to conclude that our government is again putting profit over the health of the people of New Brunswick. We are being shafted by our government again! This government has got its head stuck in a hole of "self-sufficiency" with no regard for common sense.

First, the mineral uranium, be it rough or refined, has been classified by the Environmental Protection Agency as a hazardous material. In Nova Scotia, where there is a moratorium against uranium mining, the issue is controlled by the Minister of Environment. Our Minister of Natural Resources should not have control of this dirty mineral, as you can see that he has a very different agenda.

Our Premier is looking for "short-term gain for long-term pain". I suggest he take a tour of Northern Saskatchewan and see for himself the devastation of the rivers and lakes, and confirm the increased cancer rates in that area. Our Premier doesn't seem to think of our children. The greed for profit has created tunnel vision.

The mining company, Inco, has a terrible track record on the environment and is currently under litigation for the polluting in Sudbury in 1994. In 2005 the Globe and Mail gave Inco a failing grade for corporate social and environmental responsibility.

Uranium, if mined at all, should not be in a populated area or near watershed. This potential strip of uranium follows the Cobequid Mountain Range which is densely populated. The Minister says, "Jobs!" Well, 20,000 mining workers have died as a direct result of cancer from uranium. Who wants that kind of job? Open pit mining will cause uranium to be airborne, or hydrogeology, another method of mining, will demand water from our water table and produce uranium-laden mud puddles which have leaked and ruined water for life.

Nuclear energy is a mistake. Our climate is becoming much more unpredictable. The reactor in Japan which has been damaged, leaking radioactive water, Chernobyl, Three-Mile Island and the related deaths and cancer; this is not the future I choose for my family or yours. If a windmill fell over as a result of an earthquake, we would just stand it up again.

Minister Arsenault says we shouldn't let this boat go by because of the high price of uranium. Again, that's profit over health. As for allowing prospectors on our land to explore, we the people of New Brunswick, must protect ourselves.

We need to heed the example of the Fontaines. They are a family that live near me and had an exploration company bully their way on to their organic farm in 2005. A hole was drilled behind their house at a depth of 1400 feet where a vein of bad water was struck under tremendous pressure. They could not cap the water so they let it run into the nearby brook.

The next day the vegetation was dead around the brook. Eventually, two weeks later, they capped the well at a level of 75 feet. This, of course, contaminated the drinking water to their house. To this day, their problem has not been fixed.

Our Health Minister, Mike Murphy, went to inspect and he followed up with a letter to the company. CBC did a news segment on their predicament, and as yet, these actions have still not yielded a
resolution. It will be two years this November that the Fontaines have to carry water from their livestock well which is 500 meters away.

So, due to the sloppy procedures and unpredictability of drilling, we can tell the prospectors, "Due to Fontaines' Law you will not explore on my property!"

If someone is getting harassed by exploration companies, we will stand together to fight! This government is out of their minds. I don't think uranium mines and tourism are on the same page. Mr. Graham, I strongly suggest touring devastated Northern Saskatchewan before you make a huge mistake.

Mike Milligan,
Shediac River

What belongs to us should not be mined

By Tracy Glynn and Craig Johnson, For the Times & Transcript

Published Monday August

6th August 2007

New Brunswick is rapidly becoming prey to dozens of local, national and international mining companies. Prospecting is happening at an unprecedented rate, and New Brunswickers deserve to know what this means for them, for their property, and for their communities, all of which will be affected in a future of increasingly predatory mining development.

The resurgence in mining interest throughout the world is largely driven by an international growth in demand for metals and minerals for manufacturing and production in China and India, and by a renewed interest in nuclear power. The latter has drastically increased the global hunger for uranium, and countless areas throughout the world are feeling the pressure of increased prospecting, including New Brunswick's own Turtle Creek. In the last eight months alone, 12,000 new mining claims have been registered with the Department of Natural Resources.

With this rise in international demand comes a rise in the value of these mined resources -- naturally, when prices rise, there is more money to be made. This also means that areas where it previously wasn't profitable to mine now suddenly begin to become profitable, drawing the interest of companies hungry for profits and for expansion into new markets.

However, in response to this rise in prospecting and mining efforts has come an equally strong backlash. Communities around the world are mounting opposition in an effort to preserve their land, safeguard their water from contamination, and protect their citizens and children from the adverse health and societal impacts of mining projects.

Uranium is found throughout Canada and is typically concentrated, underground, in hard rock and sandstone. Uranium has been mined and utilized as energy for electricity, weapons, and military submarines and at times in the production of radioisotopes for medicine and scientific research. However, radioisotopes can be artificially produced and do not actually require uranium for their production.

Uranium has been mined in the Northwest Territories, Ontario and continues to be mined heavily in Northern Saskatchewan. Significant deposits of uranium have also been discovered in Nova Scotia; however, New Brunswickers should note that as a result of strong public opposition and inquiry, the prospecting and mining of uranium have been banned in Nova Scotia.

Uranium mines in northern Saskatchewan have made headlines over the years for leaving a toxic legacy of arsenic, long-lived radionuclides and other heavy metals in nearby lands and waters. Effluent from uranium mines is unambiguously defined as a toxic substance under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act.

Here in New Brunswick, the areas of Turtle Creek, Cambridge Narrows, as well the north of the province are experiencing the pressure of increased prospecting, and many community members and landowners are rightly infuriated by the appearance of prospecting tags upon their land, largely driven by this resurgence of interest in uranium.

This represents a violation of their property, and their rights as landowners in the province -- these New Brunswick citizens are perfectly justified in raising concerns over the implications of these tags for the future of their land.

New Brunswick's Mining Act is currently outdated, having remained unchanged since the 1980s. It stipulates that mining companies are not required to notify landowners prior to staking their land because minerals found beneath the surface are said to be owned by the Crown. Prospectors are only required to notify landowners of any work that would damage the environment or disrupt the land. Landowners in Cambridge Narrows are calling for the Mining Act to be reviewed and amended.

Fortunately, in a recent article, our Minister of Natural Resources assured us that "a mine will not be allowed to open if the environment will be adversely affected." (Letter to the Telegraph-Journal, July 26, 2007). Then, one might ask, what's the problem?

If this statement were true, no mine would ever be opened, not in New Brunswick or anywhere else in the world, since there isn't a single mining activity in the world that has not adversely impacted the environment in which it takes place.

Mining is an inherently destructive and polluting activity, entailing impacts for the surrounding soil, wildlife, waterways, and human populations during virtually every phase of production, from mining to smelting and eventually manufacturing.

New Brunswickers deserve to be aware of what this rise in prospecting means for their area, and what it means for their future, and the future of their land, lest they become prey to the profit-driven motives of large mining companies eager to stake their claims to New Brunswick soil.

Tracy Glynn and Craig Johnson are members of the Conservation Council of New Brunswick.



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