MAC: Mines and Communities

Quebec imposes moratorium on uranium development

Published by MAC on 2013-04-09
Source: Montreal Gazette, statements

For earlier article on MAC, see: United front forms against Quebec uranium mining

Quebec imposes moratorium on uranium development

By Kevin Dougherty and Monique Beaudin

Montreal Gazette

28 March 2013

QUEBEC - No permits for the exploration or mining of uranium in Quebec will be issued until an independent study on the environmental impact and social acceptance of extracting uranium has been completed, Environment Minister Yves-François Blanchet announced Thursday.

Blanchet has asked Quebec's Bureau d'audiences publiques sur l'environnement to examine the issue of uranium development and uranium waste in general, with hearings throughout the province.

"Some people fear uranium more than iron or gold," Blanchet said, explaining the BAPE will have full latitude to recommend all possible scenarios, from a permanent moratorium to determining safe ways to develop the heavy metal, used to fuel nuclear reactors and build nuclear bombs.

"As far as I know, this stuff is radioactive," Blanchet said, adding he cannot predict the outcome of the study. "It might not be dangerous and it might be. This is the kind of issue that the Bureau will address."

As a first step Thursday, Blanchet announced he has ordered scientific studies to prepare for the BAPE panel, which would begin its work in the fall, reporting in about a year.

The minister said the BAPE will decide how much time it needs for the study and he cannot interfere with its work.

Blanchet said he realizes the northern Quebec Crees of Eeyou Istchee have called for a permanent moratorium on uranium development and he hopes the Crees and other aboriginals participate in the process.

In a statement, the Crees welcomed the "moratorium," while expressing reserves.

Bill Namagoose, executive director of the Grand Council of the Crees, said Blanchet's decision has set off a "constitutional crisis," explaining that the BAPE has no jurisdiction under the James Bay Northern Quebec Agreement, and calling on the minister to harmonize the BAPE process with the James Bay agreement.

"Treaty trumps law," Namagoose said. "We can't allow a legal procedure to override the James Bay Northern Quebec Agreement."

Blanchet said while no exploration project requiring a permit from the Environment Department can go ahead until the BAPE panel reports, limited exploration work, not requiring a permit, may go ahead.

Christian Simard, of the environmental groups Nature Québec and Québec meilleure mine, applauded Blanchet's announcement, while adding that environmentalists wanted a complete halt to uranium exploration.

But Simard noted uranium prices are very low and the number of active exploration sites in Quebec now stands at about 10.

He is concerned about preliminary exploration, which can involve drilling, saying the cleanup of sites "is not always done properly."

"De facto it will stop for a time," Simard said, predicting the BAPE study can only conclude that Quebec should not allow uranium extraction, and noting that no effective way has been found to deal with nuclear waste, which remains dangerous for 1,600 years.

"I am confident at the end of this process there will be a consensus in Quebec society to say that uranium is not a mineral like the others," Simard said. "It's radioactive, there are problems with radioactivity in the very long term."

Simard suggested Quebec follow the example of Virginia, which recently ordered a study to determine whether to lift its moratorium on uranium, only to conclude, based on scientific evidence, that the moratorium should remain permanent.

Blanchet said the Matoush site of Strateco Resources Inc. is the only uranium project in the province seeking an exploration permit from his department. He declined to comment on a legal action by Strateco calling on him to grant such a permit.

Strateco, though, called Blanchet's decision "unfounded and unjustified" with no "validity, rationale or scientific background."

"We are going to look at what was announced today in more detail, we are going to look at how we can defend our rights, and we are going to defend them with all the avenues and by all means available to us," said company spokesperson Denis Boucher

Strateco has spent more than $120 million on its project in Quebec's Otish mountains, about 275 kilometres north of Chibougamau, Boucher said.

The project underwent a four-year review process at the federal and provincial level, as well as a review by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, and got the green light, Boucher said.

Blanchet's announcement came after years of lobbying by environmental groups and communities across Quebec. More than 300 communities have passed resolutions calling for a uranium moratorium. In 2009, more than 20 doctors in Sept-Îles threatened to quit their jobs and leave Quebec unless a moratorium was put in place.

There are so many concerns about uranium that Quebec should enact a permanent moratorium, said Gordon Edwards, president of the Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility.

"It's a little bit like asbestos - people have come to the conclusion that there are certain minerals that are so dangerous that they're not worth mining, they're better to leave underground," Edwards said. "One is asbestos, and one is uranium."

Twitter: @doughertykr


James Bay Crees Laud Announcement of Uranium Moratorium, But Oppose the Government of Quebec's Approach to its ‘Commission Concerning the Uranium Industry in Quebec'

Grand Council of the Crees (Eeyou Istchee) statement

28 March 2013

"Without a prior agreement with the Crees, the mechanism chosen by Quebec for this important process violates our treaty rights of, and fails to respect our special status in Eeyou Istchee"

Nemaska, QC, March 28, 2013 - The James Bay Cree Nation welcomes the Government of Quebec's decision to impose a moratorium on uranium exploration and mining activities in Eeyou Istchee and in Quebec. However, the Cree Nation calls on the Government of Quebec to ensure that the Commission concerning the uranium industry in Quebec properly respects Cree rights and the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement (JBNQA).

Quebec Environment Minister Yves-François Blanchet announced today that the Bureau d'audiences publiques sur l'environnement (BAPE) is to conduct province-wide public hearings regarding the uranium sector in Quebec. Minister Blanchet confirmed that while the BAPE uranium process is underway, no authorizations for uranium exploration or mining projects will be granted, and the proposed Matoush advanced exploration project will not be permitted to proceed.

"An independent and broad study of the uranium industry is urgently required," Deputy Grand Chief Ashley Iserhoff stated. "It is also good that Quebec has halted all uranium exploration and mining activities while this process is on-going. However, we unfortunately cannot support the process as it is currently planned."

"Without the prior consent of the Crees, the BAPE mechanism chosen by the Government of Quebec violates the JBNQA treaty of 1975 to which the government of Quebec is a party, and fails to respect the special status of the Cree Nation in Eeyou Istchee," said Grand Chief Dr. Matthew Coon Come. "We are confident that through nation-to-nation discussions, we will reach an agreement with Quebec. We call on Quebec to work with the Grand Council of the Crees to ensure that this important process can proceed in Eeyou Istchee on a cooperative and respectful basis."

Located near the Cree community of Mistissini, the Matoush project is the most advanced uranium project to date in the Cree territory of Eeyou Istchee and in Quebec. "We commend the Government for its decision to stop the Matoush project," said Mistissini Chief Richard Shecapio. "Mistissini's position is clear: there will be no uranium activities in our territory. We will continue working with the hundreds of municipalities and civil society groups that oppose uranium in Quebec."

"The risks that come with uranium exploration, uranium exploitation and uranium waste are issues of major concern to the Cree Nation", said Grand Chief Dr. Matthew Coon Come. "As a basic matter of human rights, our consent is required for all projects that might seriously impact our environment, economies and way of life."

"Our people supports environmentally and socially sustainable and equitable development in our territory, including mining," Grand Chief Coon Come noted. "But uranium burdens all future generations in a way that we are not willing to assume. We are confident that when Quebecers consider the true facts about uranium mining and waste, they will join us in our permanent moratorium stand."

The Grand Council of the Crees (Eeyou Istchee) is the political entity that represents the James Bay Cree people. The Cree Nation of Mistissini is one of the larger communities within the James Bay Cree Nation, and is located at the southeast end of Mistassini Lake.

For further information:

Grand Council of the Crees (Eeyou Istchee)
Bill Namagoose
Executive Director
Cellular: 613-725-7024

Grand Chief Matthew Coon Come
Telephone: (613) 761-1655

Me Jessica Orkin, legal advisor
Cellular: (514) 260-2622

Cree Nation of Mistissini
Chief Richard Shecapio
Cree Nation of Mistissini
Téléphone : (418) 923-3461

The AFNQL strongly objects to the exploration and mining of uranium

Association of First Nations of Quebec and Labrador Press Release

1 April 2013

Wendake, QC, March 28, 2013 - Assembled in the Abenaki community of Odanak on March 13 2013, the Chiefs of the AFNQL adopted a resolution which strongly and definitively opposes the exploration and exploitation of uranium.

"The exploration and exploitation of uranium constitute major and irreversible health hazards to our populations, our territories and the resources it contains. The First Nations have the most sacred duty to protect their populations, their territories and their resources", stated Ghislain Picard, Chief of the AFNQL.

"I also encourage all the First Nations to clearly and publicly demonstrate their opposition to the exploration and exploitation of uranium on their territories", concluded Chief Picard.

The AFNQL supports the coalition of more than 300 localities throughout Quebec calling for a moratorium on the exploration and exploitation of uranium.

About the AFNQL

The AFNQL is the regional organization regrouping the 43 Chiefs of the First Nations of Quebec and Labrador.

For further information:
Mélanie Vincent
Tel. : (418) 842-5020
Cell : (418) 580-4442

Quebec imposes moratorium on uranium development

By Kevin Dougherty, Québec Bureau Chief

Montreal Gazette

28 March 2013

QUEBEC - Environment Minister Yves-François Blanchet announced Thursday that he has ordered an impact study on the exploration and development of uranium in the province.

In consequence no certificate of authorization will be issued for the exploration or development of uranium in Quebec until the study is completed.

The Bureau d'audiences publiques sur l'environnement [the agency responsible for holding public hearings on environmental issues in Quebec] has been given a mandate to conduct the study starting next fall.

The BAPE does not have jurisdiction in northern Quebec where uranium exploration is underway. The region falls under the jurisdiction of the James Bay Northern Quebec Agreement.

But an exception in the BAPE law allows it to conduct generic studies, such as this one.

Blanchet said he hopes aboriginal communities in Quebec's north will participate in the BAPE hearings.

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