MAC: Mines and Communities

Uranium update

Published by MAC on 2007-07-20

Uranium update / Rechazo la Ferta de Una Compania Francesa que Buscuba Extraer Uranio

20th July 2007

As the buzz about increased uranium prices leads to fevered speculation, landowners are increasingly voicing their opposition. Canadians, including First Nations, continue to speak out about the flurry of blue ribbons that denote claims staked on or near their land, while in Australia the indigenous custodians of the land are refusing to give in to uranium mining as they fear what it will bring to their land near the long threatened Kakadu National Park. There is good reason for this, if the experience of the Navajo in New Mexico is anything to go by. Despite the lure of jobs and money in a remote area, the environmental and health problems left by the first wave of mining are still all too evident.

Who wants to be a billionaire? I don't

Jeffrey Lee, senior custodian of the Koongarra uranium deposit, passes by the Bluetongue dreaming site on his land. "I'm not interested in money. I've got a job. I can buy tucker. I can go fishing and hunting. That's all that matters to me," he says.

By Lindsay Murdoch,

14th July 2007

JEFFREY Lee is not interested in the soaring price of uranium, which could make him one of the world's richest men.

"This is my country, look, it's beautiful and I fear somebody will disturb it," he said, waving his arm across rocky land surrounded by the Kakadu National Park, where the French mining giant Areva wants to extract 14,000 tonnes of uranium worth more than $5 billion.

Mr Lee, the shy, 36-year-old sole member of the Djok clan and senior custodian of the Koongarra uranium deposit, has decided never to allow the ecologically sensitive land to be mined. "There are sacred sites, there are burial sites and there are other special places out there which are my responsibility to look after," Mr Lee told The Age.

"I'm not interested in money. I've got a job. I can buy tucker. I can go fishing and hunting. That's all that matters to me."

Mr Lee said he thought long and hard about speaking publicly about why he wanted to see the land incorporated into the World Heritage-listed Kakadu where, he said, "it will be protected and safe forever".

The Koongarra deposit is only three kilometres from Nourlangie Rock, one of the most visited attractions in Kakadu.

"Now I want to talk about what I have decided to do because I fear for my country," he said. "I was taken all through here on the shoulder of my grandmother … I heard all the stories and learnt everything about this land and I want to pass it all on to my kids."

Mr Lee this week took The Age to a rocky outcrop overlooking the Koongarra deposit, a sacred place where, according to his clans' beliefs, a giant blue tongue lizard still lurks and should not be disturbed.

Here it is, painted on a rock hundreds, or even thousands, of years ago, its jaw apparently bitten off in a mystical fight.

This is what Mr Lee calls a "djang", or place of spiritual essence, which he has closed to the 230,000 tourists who visit Kakadu each year.

"My father and grandfather said they would agree to opening the land to mining but I have learnt as I have grown up that there's poison in the ground," he said.

"My father and grandfather were offered cars, houses … but nobody told them about uranium and what it can do. "If you disturb that land, bad things will happen … there will be a big flood, there will be an earthquake and people will have a big accident."

Mr Lee said there were places on his land where the Rainbow Serpent — a mythological creature believed to be in control of water — had entered that were so sacred "I can't even go to them or even talk about them".

Areva, the world's biggest nuclear power company, wants to extract the uranium on its 12.5-square-kilometre mineral lease at Koongarra because the price of the ore has soared. But Mr Lee's declaration will pressure the Howard Government to formally incorporate the land into Kakadu.

Under the Aboriginal Land Rights Act (Northern Territory), Areva must get Mr Lee's approval at a meeting called by the Northern Land Council before it can start extracting the uranium.

In August 2005, the Government seized control of uranium mining from the Northern Territory, declaring the territory open for new mines.

Ranger, a mine with a history of leaks and owned by Energy Resources of Australia Limited, has been extracting uranium inside Kakadu since 1981. But the Howard Government has always maintained that no new mine would be approved in the territory unless it had the approval of traditional owners.

The Government has told UNESCO, the world body under which Kakadu is listed as a heritage site, that it would agree in principle for Koongarra to be incorporated into the park if the traditional owners requested it. Mr Lee, who works as a Kakadu ranger, said incorporating Koongarra into the park would allow him to see that the land remains protected.

"Being part of the park will ensure that the traditional laws, customs, sites, bush tucker, trees, plants and water stay the same as when they were passed on to me by my father and great grandfather," he said.

Mr Lee, who became known as Kakadu's mystery man because he has avoided publicity, has another concern. As the sole member of the Djok clan he has no children to pass the land on to. "I'll have to see what I can do about that," he said.

Too hot to handle? Rising uranium prices means jobs; but some say the risk is too great

By Zsombor Peter, Gallup Independent -

16th July 2007

CHURCH ROCK — From 1967 to 1982, the United Nuclear Corporation mined several million tons of uranium ore out of this 125-acre site where New Mexico Highway 566 dead-ends 15 miles north of Church Rock.

Back then, the jobs were plentiful and the pay was good, especially for a young Navajo just out of high school. Larry King, who grew up and still lives just miles south of the old mine, started out as an underground surveyor for UNC in 1975 at $9 an hour, chasing uranium drifts as they snaked through the rock 1,600 feet below the surface.

"At the time it was good money," King said.

But when uranium prices began to tumble in the wake of Three Mile Island, the mine shut down and the jobs disappeared. Today, the few hollowed-out office buildings still standing at the site are as empty as the shed-off skin of some long departed reptile. Weathered tiles crack underfoot. Decades-old technical manuals litter the floors.

They're the only tangible reminders of an industry that used to thrive here. But with shrinking weapons stockpiles and new demand once again driving uranium prices skyward, mining companies are returning to this quiet corner of the state with new promises of hundreds of jobs and millions in royalties. Some locals want them back. Others, like King, who still live with the radioactive fallout from the last boom and don't believe another would prove any safer, say they'll try to stop those companies "until there's a cure for cancer."

Show me the money

Although not one company has yet to mine a pound of uranium out of New Mexico soil this century, many are making preparations. Few are further along than Hydro Resources Inc., the local subsidiary of a Texas company with four properties between Church Rock and Crownpoint. It's already secured a crucial license from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, although opponents have tied it up in federal court.

Economically, HRI makes a tempting offer.

If and when production ever starts, the company says each site will need nearly 100 workers and pump $35 million into the community through payrolls and the purchase of supplies and services.

Richard van Horn, HRI's vice president of operations, said he could probably fill half, maybe even three quarters, of those jobs locally. All he's looking for is English proficiency, a high school diploma, a strong work ethic, and a drug-free record.

"We don't need to go outside when we have people here who need jobs," van Horn said.

He said salaries would range from $12 an hour to the low $20s and come with benefits, health insurance and a 401-K, "the whole works, so these aren't minimum wage-type jobs."

And those are just the employees. While HRI bought three of its sites from other companies, some 400 Navajo allottees hold claim to its 1,440-acre Unit 1 site in Crownpoint. If it can recover 75 percent of the 27 million pounds of uranium there, the company says those allottees could collectively earn more than $200 million over the lifetime of the mine.

The Navajo Nation could be in for a big payday, too. At HRI's Section 17 site in Church Rock, where it has surface rights, the tribe could make more than $16 million off of royalties, according to the company.

But all that's assuming a uranium spot price of $100 per pound. After the price of a pound of uranium crashed in early 1980s, it stayed low enough to keep most mining companies out of the business for the next two decades. It's only in the past three or four years that it started to rebound. In early 2003, a pound was trading for less than $11. It's now trading for just over $133.

Van Horn says he believes the market is in for a correction but doesn't know when.

"If I knew that," he said, "I would be buying uranium futures."

The price has already dipped a few dollars since mid-June, for the first time in years. Given all the volatility, what the allottees and tribe would really end up earning is anyone's guess.

King's guess is that it won't be nearly what HRI claims, and he questions the company's promise of jobs, too. When HRI first started talking about the jobs it would bring to the area, he said, it mentioned 300, "but as time went by ... they mentioned a lower number. The last time they mentioned the number of jobs they were going to create it was 60."

The company's royalty figures seem to be changing as well. HRI provided The Independent with that $16 million figure the Navajo Nation's take from Section 17 a few weeks ago. In January, assuming the same recovery rate, it said the tribe would earn $9 million from the site at a uranium-per-pound price of $75. So if the price of uranium has gone up a third since then, the tribe should be in for only $12 million now.

But it's all a moot point to the tribe, which banned all mining and production of uranium on Navajoland in 2005. HRI claims its sites all sit on private land, beyond the tribe's jurisdiction, but a recent ruling by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency concluded otherwise. HRI is appealing.

Land of opportunity

Unit 1 is another matter. Unlike its other sites, HRI leased it from Navajo allottees whose descendants were granted private rights to the land by the U.S. Interior Department in the 1800s.

With millions to be made, those allottees want the tribe to get out of HRI's way.

"We have every right to have our land developed, and we have people with no interest trying to control us," said Ben House, president of the Eastern Navajo Allottees Association.

An allottee himself, House gets $3,000 a month from HRI to help the company build local support. For a man charged with changing the minds of some very staunch opponents, he's low key. He picks his words slowly and carefully.

"Joe Shirley can do whatever he wants on the reservation," he said of the Navajo Nation president, who signed off on the Tribal Council's uranium ban, "but out here we treat our allotments as private land.

"Back in 1868, people were given this land to try and make a living, and that's what we're trying to do."

But if the tribe won't listen to the allottees, House said it should at least listen to its out-of-work citizens. Unemployment across the reservation has hovered stubbornly above 40 percent for decades.

"The Navajo Nation promotes education, but they're not providing jobs," House said. "We got people coming in to look for work ... especially the young people. They're really hurting. They've got bills and families."

He said people stop by HRI's Crownpoint office asking about jobs every week, but he as nothing to give them. Several buildings sit inside the company's fenced-off compound. But with mining yet to start, it's a quiet place.

HRI and its allottees aren't the only ones who want to see that change. The McKinley County Board of Commissioners passed a resolution in support of the uranium industry's return last year.

Commissioner Earnest Becenti, who requested the resolution, said the county needs jobs and more money for better roads.

"Thus far we've just been meeting the emergency needs," he said, "but we need to provide a better living standard for our people."

Becenti said he voted for the resolution on the strength of a recommendation from the county's advisory water board, which concluded that HRI's proposed mining activities would pose no significant risk to the county's water supplied. Larry Winn, who facilitated the board's meetings on the subject, thinks its conclusion may have been different if it had sought out some expert testimony from opponents rather than settle for the emotional rebuke it got from a handful of residents. Still, Becenti stands by his decision.

"We need the jobs," he insisted.

A Texas tale

The residents of Kleberg County in south Texas got that and more.

When Uranium Resources Inc., HRI's parent company, started mining its Kingsville Dome site in 1988, said Richard Messbarger, executive director of the Kingsville Economic Development Council, "they hired every drilling rig they could find."

He said the company employed up to 200 people at any one time, "and they paid very well."

With the tax revenue the mining generated, he added, the local school district built a new gym and classrooms.

But what they also got, according to the county, was a breach of contract. When URI decided in 2004 that it wanted to start mining a section of the site called Area 3, it made a deal with the county that any wells in Areas 1 and 2 that were suitable for drinking, irrigation or stock watering before it started mining them in the 1980s would be restored to premining conditions first.

URI started mining Area 3 in January. But according to the company's own data, one well, the only one that tested usable, has yet to be restored.

As George Rice, a groundwater hydrologist working for a local group trying to stop the mining, put it, URI "basically said, 'Forget you, county. We're going to go ahead mining, and if you don't like it, that's too bad.'"

By February, the county passed a resolution authorizing legal action if the parties failed to talk the matter through. According to the county's attorney, they're still talking.

URI insists it's breached nothing. Mark Pelizza, the company's vice president for environmental affairs, said it found some old data after 2004 indicating that the well was never usable to begin with.

Unconvinced, some county residents have banded together in hopes of kicking URI out. They call themselves STOP, for South Texas Opposes Pollution. They're worried that the elevated uranium levels at the mine site could contaminate nearby wells that are still clean.

Pelizza says they have nothing to worry about. Over the 30 years URI has been mining for uranium with the method it's using at Kingsville, he said, "there has never been a water well impacted."

But it's also true that no mining company using the same method has ever restored the underground water at a mine site to its original conditions. The only way a company has ever managed to officially call a site restored is by convincing the state or federal government to lower its standards.

Teo Saens knew none of that when he and his wife leased 40 acres to URI in the early 1990s.

"The words that were used were, 'We're going to take a batch of uranium and leave (the water) crystal clear," cleaner even, Saens said, than before.

The lease has since expired, and because URI never mined his land, Saens earned only $100 a year per acre. But he considers even that "blood money."

"It's little consolation for what they're doing to the land," he said. "If we knew what we know today, we wouldn't have leased."

Weighing the odds

Messbarger says most Kleberg County residents appreciate URI's presence. He says its opponents are few.

"They're a small cadre," he said, numbering no more than 15 or 20 at any time.

In northwest New Mexico, the Eastern Navajo Din Against Uranium Mining has been fighting HRI for years.

President Mitchell Capitan used to have high hopes for leaching mining, the method URI uses in Texas and HRI wants to use in Church Rock and Crownpoint. Instead of digging open pits or sending miners underground, it involves injecting chemicals that loosen the uranium from the rock so it can be pumped to the surface. As a lab technician for Mobile Oil before HRI showed up, he tried to show it could work. But what he discovered he's never forgotten.

"The thing that really bothered me was the end result of Mobile's demonstration, where they couldn't restore the groundwater," he said.

Mobile ended up pulling out. Now, he said, "(HRI) is saying that nothing will happen ... but I don't believe them."

What troubles opponents even more is that HRI wants employ the method closer to active wells than it's ever been tried before.

"So more or less," King said, "HRI's going to experiment with us."

The company's license from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission says it has to move the wells before mining. But according to the NRC, the company can always ask to have the license amended. And since HRI tried convincing the NRC that the wells were not a problem before, opponents believe it will try again.

House dismisses Capitan's objections as ignorant scare tactics.

"The Navajo Nation should not be held back by fear," he said. "If we're afraid to make a move, we can't make any progress."

House wants the tribe to let the allottees live off their land as they see fit.

"But it's not the land we're concerned about," King said. "It's the aquiver, and the aquifer doesn't know where your boundary line is."

Capitan summed up the choice these communities face by holding up his two hands to the shoulder to make a human scale. In one, he said, was all the wealth a new uranium mining boom could bring. In the other, he said, were all the risks to health and homeland.

Messbarger disagrees with the company's opponents, but he understands why the issue inspires so much controversy.

"In the Southwest, nothing scares people more than concerns over the quality of their water," he said.

"Water is precious," Capitan said. "Water is life."

Officials look at mining's impact

By Zsombor Peter, Gallup Independent -

16th July 2007

CHURCH ROCK — The dozen state senators and representatives clustered together in Teddy Nez's patchy yard last week knew they were standing on dangerous ground.

The delegation from the New Mexico Indian Affairs Committee, came for a first-hand look at how Navajos were living with the fallout from decades of uranium mining. But when their guides pointed out that the very dirt beneath their feet was still radiating high levels of radium, a few laughed nervously. Others shuffled inconspicuously onto safer soil.

Committee Chairman Ray Begaye believes the daylong hearing in Church Rock helped open some eyes.

"I don't think the committee members realized they were part of the process," he said.

Before visiting the Nez home that morning, some committee members were disavowing any responsibility for uranium mining in the state. But by the end of the day, some were calling for a moratorium.


When it's come to cleaning up the mess the mining companies left behind, the state has done little. Most of the work, however far from finished, has gone to the federal government. But with the control of key permits in its hand, the state has a major role to play. And as the skyrocketing price of uranium draws ever more companies to the verge of a new mining boom in this corner of the state, locals are asking it to play that hand carefully.

Since the high spot prices that spurred three solid decades of uranium mining in northwest New Mexico came tumbling down in the early 1980s, the state's permitting offices have had little work. But in the past year, said the Mining and Minerals Division's Bill Brancard, they've received almost a dozen applications for exploratory drilling from companies suddenly interested in finding out exactly how much uranium their properties hold. The state has approved five, denied two, and is still reviewing four of the applications.

None of those permits allow for actual uranium mining. But they're a key step along the path to doing so, and they open the door to permits that would.

For most Church Rock area residents, that's close enough.

"Why do we need new mining when we've still got waste from the past?" asked Larry King, who's had a well on his family's grazing land along New Mexico Highway 566 shut down for high uranium levels.

King lives a few miles south of an underground plume or radioactive water the United Nuclear Corporation has been trying to clean up for more than 10 years, and just across the road from a site another company has its eyes on for new mining. The state delegation stopped by his home before driving north to see Nez.

"You're standing on high levels of radon," he told the group, gathered around his gate just off the highway.

"It's good you're only here for a few minutes. I drive through here 24-7," he said. "I'm thankful every day that I'm able to wake up and do my normal duties."

Soil removal

Nez has had a little more help. The U.S. Environment Department recently spent a month digging nearly 5,000 cubic yards of radium-rich soil out of his and his neighbors' yards. But even that effort has left behind levels dozens of times above the department's standards for a residential area just steps from his home, and the waste pile responsible for the contamination still sits 500 yards away. The EPA is negotiating with UNC, which left the pile behind, for a more extensive cleanup.

"The silver lining here is that there's a responsible party," said Chris Shuey, an environmental health specialist for the Southwest Research and Information Center, a nonprofit that's been helping communities redress the pollution from past uranium mining and to stop the industry's return.

But when the government can't find a responsible party like UNC to pay for the cleanup, if it's gone bankrupt for example, the bill goes to the government.

"And that's where the Legislature comes in," Shuey said.

The state currently has only $100,000 in its cleanup fund, said Brancard. It receives another $1.5 million a year in federal grants.

"So that's not going to cover very much," he said.

Accord to a state inventory, some 100 mines around New Mexico remain wholly unreclaimed. The EPA's cleanup around the Nez home alone cost more than $2 million.


So when there's no responsible party, most of the cleanup costs fall to the deeper pockets of the federal government. But with federal priorities stacked in favor of high population density, even that can prove hard to come by on and around the reservation.

Navajos and their advocates want the state to do more.

It was the state, after all, that permitted the UNC mine and mill that contaminated the area, Shuey noted. And it was the state, he added, that OK'd a UNC dam that gave way in 1979, leading to the largest release of radioactive material by volume in the country's history.

Before the state decides to clear the way for a new round of mining, Stephen Etsitty, the director of the Navajo Nation's Environmental Protection Agency, cautioned the legislators, "you need to think seriously about the costs. We haven't even come close to cleaning up the last round."

Residents asked the delegation for help to fund health studies. Kidney disease rates, already high among Navajos, reportedly spike around old mine sites, but the evidence is anecdotal.

"Throughout these 50 years ... there has never been a comprehensive health study in these communities," Shuey said. "It was just assumed that people are OK. As we hear every day, people are not OK."

At the end of the day, the committee sounded divided about what to do. Sens. John Ryan and David Ulibarri suggested letting the mining companies back in so that their profits and royalties to the state could help pay for the damages of past mining. Begaye said he'd rather see the companies clean up the mess they've created first.

Either way, Begaye expects to see much more legislation on the industry, whether proposing to slow it down or speed it up, come the Legislature's next session.

With so many mining companies already maneuvering for position around New Mexico's substantial uranium reserves, Rep. Patricia Lundstrom said, the state needs some sound policies to deal with them.

"This industry," she said, "is here."

Mining claims in south skyrocketing

Prospecting: Soaring uranium prices have companies seeing opportunity, property owners seeing red

Daniel Martins, Telegraph-Journal

20th July 2007

The high price of uranium has prospectors madly staking claims across the province, causing unease in some New Brunswick communities.

Staking mining claims reached its zenith in New Brunswick in the 1950s, but mostly in the province's less-populated north. But with record numbers of claims in southern New Brunswick, there is increasing friction between residents and mining companies.

"Because there hasn't been a lot of activity in the south, it's very new to people and they don't quite understand what their rights are, and what the rights of the company are," Sam McEwan, director of minerals and petroleum development for the Department of Natural Resources, said this week.

Mining officials are astonished by the skyrocketing number of mining claims staked in New Brunswick. Attractive prices for the uranium, which have risen from Cdn$10 a pound to around $130 in recent years, is the reason for prospectors' interest.

In the last eight months, 12,000 new mining claims were registered with the Department of Natural Resources, which usually sees only around 3,000 over an entire year.

Les Fyffe, the department's director of geological surveys, says up to two-thirds of the new claims are for uranium, which can be refined into fuel for nuclear reactors.

It will be years before there is enough evidence to determine whether any mine will be sustainable. Nevertheless, the interest shown by prospectors is encouraging for provincial officials.

"It's a great thing for the economy of New Brunswick at this time to have this kind of activity going on," Fyffe said.

"There's positive spinoffs for the people who work in and supply labour and services to the mining industry."

But the news isn't sitting well with the village of Cambridge-Narrows, whose residents were angered when Newfoundland and Labrador company Triple Uranium began staking claims on their properties.

Under Canadian law, all natural resources beneath private property belong to the Crown, and the New Brunswick Mining Act, last amended in 1985, allows prospectors to stake claims on private land provided they notify the property's owners "as soon as possible." If the prospecting process requires damaging the land, the company must negotiate compensation with the owner.

But many Cambridge-Narrows denizens have complained that they have not been contacted by the company that staked their land. Fyffe says this is because prospectors prefer to move quickly to put down claims for fear of the competition.

He says the complaints are so numerous the department is mulling an electronic system that will allow prospectors to stake their claims with the department without having to tread on the land in question. Prospectors would still be responsible for notifying property owners.

Area resident Elmer Wiggins says he has heard nothing from Triple Uranium since they company staked his property in February. He is furious at the idea of prospectors being legally able to enter his property without having to tell him first.

"That's a violation of your civil rights, right there," he said.

"If they want to do mining, do it on Crown land, and not on private land."

Wiggins and about 100 other residents met with company representatives, department officials and politicians last week. Mayor Peter Knight says the community will push to amend the provincial mining act to ban mining in recreational areas such as tourism-oriented Cambridge-Narrows. They also want prospectors' responsibilities to property owners clarified.

Wiggins said representatives from Triple Uranium attended the meeting and tried to reassure residents, saying the claims did not guarantee that they would find uranium on the properties. He says they estimated that it could take up to five years before they would know for sure.

Liberal MLA Eugene McGinley, Grand Lake-Gagetown, attended the meeting, and said it appeared a resolution of the growing dispute would require amending the mining act. He said he was sympathetic to the residents' plight, but also appreciated the arguments of the government and the companies.

"The issue seems to be a conflict between the matter of economic growth or development of minerals on the one hand and, on the other, the expectations of land owners to be able to enjoy the recreation potential of their own property," said McGinley, who is also speaker of the house.

But Ellen Barry, assistant deputy minister in charge of policy and planning for minerals, was reluctant to say whether amending the mining act was on the agenda. She said that while she was sympathetic to residents' concerns, mining was too important to the province to be banned altogether from recreational areas.

"What is the definition of recreational land? It may very well be that most of New Brunswick may have to come out, and if that's the case, then we're shutting down a major economic opportunity for our province and our people," she argued.

She said it was far too early to predict whether the current explorations would lead to a full-scale mine.

But mine or not, David Plante, vice-president, New Brunswick, of the Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters, said the world's energy situation means prospectors won't be abandoning their search any time soon.

"I think over the longer term the fact that we're seeing oil prices shoot up to historic highs its creating this renewed interest in alternative energy sources and, of course, nuclear is one of them."

Mine opposed - Village Residents worry about future


16th July 2007

Nancy Grant was taken aback when she heard that a Newfoundland mining company had placed blue ribbons on her property in Cambridge-Narrows.

The Saint John doctor owns 13 acres of forested land in Cambridge-Narrows. She said she bought the property for her children to use for recreation.

But now she fears the company will mine uranium on her land.

"Our land has been pegged with ribbons," she said Saturday at an information session held by the Village of Cambridge-Narrows. "We're going to look at (the land) now. We weren't notified."

She said the ribbons had been there since the end of June but neither she nor her husband received notification that the mining company had staked her land.

Under the Department of Natural Resources' Mining Act, Newfoundland's Triple Uranium Resources must meet with landowners who have mineral claims staked on their land.

But several residents in Cambridge-Narrows -- who have discovered blue ribbons on their properities -- still haven't received word from the mining company, said Mayor Peter Knight.

"From the meeting, we learnt that under the act, you're supposed to be given reasonable notice, and that's quite vague," Knight said.

"And from what I understand, some people have been getting their property ribboned for four to five months, and still haven't gotten any formal notification."

By law, the Mining Act states that mining companies don't need to notify the landowner before staking the land, since minerals beneath the land are owned by the Crown.

But prospectors need to notify landowners before beginning any work of a damaging nature or work that would interfere with the enjoyment of the land.

But Knight said residents of Cambridge-Narrows don't want prospectors on their land at all.

"The main concern is that we're a recreation area," he said. "And this kind of activity just doesn't fit our way of life.

"Mining companies come and go, and behind them, they tend to leave a lot of destruction that tends to haunt the environment for many years to come."

Sam McEwan, director of the minerals and petroleum development branch with the Department of Natural Resources, said residents shouldn't worry that the mining companies will destroy their land.

"It's very clearly understood what activity will take place," he said.

"They've been doing this for a long time, so there's a wealth of knowledge about what impact will take place if they drill a well or dig a trench where there's sedimentation of that nature."

Ellis Levine, who owns a home in Cambridge-Narrows, attended Saturday's information session.

He said if uranium is developed in the village, it will be the end of Cambridge-Narrows as a recreation destination.

"I want to retire in my home in Cambridge-Narrows for a lot of good reasons, and I'm sure the government doesn't understand what Cambridge-Narrows is all about," he said.

"This is a community of about 500 people in the winter time ... But in the summer, there's 5,000 people here."

Knight said mining would have a negative effect on the village's economy. "As one land owner said, just that it could happen here has had an impact on the value of his property," Knight said.

Grant said she wants the Mining Act to be reviewed, since it hasn't been changed since the 1980s.

"The mining act is 20 years old," she said. "A lot of environmental things have become obvious in that 20 years.

"The act allows prospectors to come onto land without notification of the owners.

"I think that needs to be looked at or be changed."

The residents of Cambridge-Narrows plan to organize a committee and work with the village and government to reopen the Mining Act.

Rechazo la Ferta de Una Compania Francesa que Buscuba Extraer Uranio

El australiano que dijo "no" a US$ 5.000 millones por su tierra

MARTES 17 JUL 2007

A algunos les parecerá un tonto que pierde la oportunidad de su vida. A otros, en cambio, los enternecerá su conmovedor amor a la historia familiar y sus antepasados. Pero a sus 36 años de edad, el australiano Jeffrey Lee es el fiel testimonio de que aún hay cosas que el dinero no puede comprar. Ni siquiera con una jugosa oferta de US$ 5.000 millones por un pedazo de tierra en el medio del desierto.

Lee se ha hecho famoso porque acaba de decir "no" a Areva, la mayor compañía mundial en su tipo en el área nuclear, que quiere extraer uranio en un terreno de 12 kilómetros cuadrados en la región de Kongarra, en las afueras del parque nacional Kakadu, según una información publicada ayer por el diario The Age de Australia. "Hay sitios sagrados aquí, hay tumbas y otros lugares especiales que es mi responsabilidad cuidar", dijo Lee, último sobreviviente del clan Djok y el guardián de Koongarra, donde sus antepasados están enterrados junto a 14.000 toneladas de uranio, ese rocoso objeto del deseo por el que la minera francesa ha intentado cubrirlo en oro.

Sin embargo, el dinero no vale nada cuando no puede comprar la voluntad de un hombre. "El dinero no me interesa. Tengo un trabajo; puedo ir a pescar y cazar. Eso es todo lo que me preocupa", declaró al diario. Es que Lee ha jurado proteger su hogar para que puedan heredarlo en el futuro sus hijos. Su deseo es que el parque sea considerado patrimonio natural por la UNESCO. Y posiblemente tenga éxito porque logró apoyo del gobierno. La determinación de Jeffrey Lee es encomiable. Amante de la naturaleza, dice que su padre y abuelo estuvieron a favor de abrir la tierra a la minería cuando fue descubierto el uranio en 1970. "Les ofrecieron coches, casas, pero nadie les dijo lo que hace el uranio", afirmó Lee.

Cuando se le piden razones por su conmovedor apego al lugar, la calidez de sus palabras es tan penetrante como el aire del desierto: "He escuchado todo tipo de historias sobre esta tierra apoyado en el hombro de mi abuela y aquí aprendí todo lo que necesito saber y eso lo quiero pasar a mis hijos", dice. Cuenta la leyenda que en la zona descansa un lagarto gigante, el cual no debe ser molestado. "Es mi creencia que si tú molestas a la tierra, ocurren cosas malas. Habrá inundaciones, habrá terremotos y la gente tendrá graves problemas", profetiza. Su sueño parece cada vez más cerca, aunque hay un problema. Como único superviviente del clan Djok, Lee aún no tiene hijos a los que ceder la tierra. "Estoy viendo qué puedo hacer con ello", afirma con picardía.


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