MAC: Mines and Communities

Native concerns derail uranium project

Published by MAC on 2007-05-10

Native concerns derail uranium project

10th May 2007

Toronto Globe and Mail, 10 May 2007 (With files from Canadian Press)

A regulatory group comprised of nominees from the First Nations and federal and territorial governments has recommended a halt to Ur-Energy Inc.'s plans to explore the upper basin of the Thelon River area, due to the project's projected impact on the local Dene people.

The decision raised concerns other junior uranium miners could face added uncertainty as they explore in the mineral-rich region that straddles the Northwest Territories and Nunavut.

"It is the Review Board's opinion that this development, in combination with the cumulative effects of other present and reasonably foreseeable future developments in the Upper Thelon basin, will cause adverse cultural impacts of a cumulative nature to areas of very high spiritual importance to aboriginal peoples. These impacts are so significant that the development cannot be justified," Gabrielle Mackenzie-Scott, chair of the Mackenzie Valley Environmental Review Board, said in the group's decision.

As uranium prices have surged from $7 (U.S.) a pound a few years ago to more than $100 a pound now, the area has been the subject of intense staking.

At least 40 companies are searching for uranium there. They have registered hundreds of prospecting permits, claims and mineral leases.

In a statement yesterday, Ur-Energy said it believed its plan to drill exploration holes at its Screech Lake project had met the highest environmental standards.

"We are disappointed by the Review Board's recommendation and will continue to pursue any and all approaches that will allow us to advance exploration on the project as soon as possible," Bill Boberg, Ur-Energy's president and chief executive, said in a statement.

Mr. Boberg also noted that the setback does not affect the company's exploration activities in other regions, including its more developed properties in Wyoming.

It is now up to federal Indian Affairs Minister Jim Prentice to decide whether to accept the group's recommendation, which could affect the future of hundreds of other mineral leases and claims in a large portion of the southeast Northwest Territories.

Other companies exploring the area include Bayswater Uranium Corp., Uravan Minerals Inc., and Cogema Resources Inc.

While it is unclear whether the recommendation regarding Ur-Energy will affect these other companies, a spokeswoman for Ur-Energy said the industry is likely bracing for bad news.

"I think the industry will be affected by this, and will have to come to grips with this," she said.


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