Protesters Move To Highway Junction; Group Wants Mine Closed Near Sharbot Lake
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."