MAC: Mines and Communities

Canada Uranium update

Published by MAC on 2007-12-04

Canada Uranium update

4th December 2007

Flooding at Cameco's Rabbit Lake mine in Saskatchewan may delay the mine's reopening until early 2008 at the earliest.

The Waterkeepers - local defenders of water resources - report the backlash against grassroots groups, following release of a report which details uranium concentrations in humans caused by the Port Hope uranium processing facility in Ontario.

A correspondent for The Globe and Mail reports united native/non-nativeopposition to uranium mining in Ontario's Sharbot Lake area.

Inuit leaders in Labrador are being told by Aurora Energy Resources that uranium mining will be safe. Aurora wants the mine operating by 2014. Meanwhile, the Nova Scotia New Democrats - official opposition party in the province - calls for a permanent ban on uranium mining in accord with a moratorium in place since 1982.

Cameco says flooding at Rabbit Lake mine will delay restart until 2008


4th December 2007

SASKATOON - Uranium giant Cameco Corp. (TSX:CCO) says increased flooding at Rabbit Lake's Eagle Point mine in Saskatchewan will delay a mining restart until early 2008 at the earliest.

"The company has set a preliminary target of the first quarter of 2008 to seal off the increased water flow," Cameco said in a release. "Mining will resume when the water flow has been sufficiently reduced to provide an adequate margin of surface water-handling capacity."

The Rabbit Lake operation has about 270 Cameco employees.

"The company does not anticipate layoffs, however, some Cameco employees may be reassigned to other tasks," the firm said. There are also 220 contractor employees whose schedules may be adjusted.

Cameco says water is entering the mine at a volume of about 110 cubic metres per hour.

"The mine is currently able to remove water at approximately the same rate as all the water entering the underground areas after successfully completing a planned 25 per cent increase to the surface water handling capacity sooner than anticipated."

Site crews are building concrete barriers, or bulkheads, intended to permanently contain the increased water flow.

Also plagued by flooding at the Cigar Lake uranium mine in northern Saskatchewan, Cameco announced Nov. 28 it had temporarily reduced underground activities at the Eagle Point mine as a precaution because water flow in the area had increased.

Limited mining activity was expected at that time.

The water flow increase was from an area being mined about 90 metres below surface. All mining activities appeared normal until additional water began flowing into the area.

In 2007, Cameco has produced 3.6 million pounds of uranium at Rabbit Lake and estimates annual production will be 3.8 million to four million pounds.

The flooded Cigar Lake mine won't start production before 2011.

Cameco is the world's largest uranium producer and its output is used to generate electricity in nuclear energy plants around the world.

Backlash: The risks of speaking out

Waterkeeper Weekly

3rd December 2007

The backlash came fast and furious after grassroots groups released details of uranium contamination in human test subjects from Port Hope, Ontario in November. Private citizens, pundits and government officials condemned their neighbours for voicing concerns about uranium pollution.

Scientists and community organizers were labelled, "small, but loud, self-interest groups" They were accused of using, "terrorist tactics," and being, "willing to do whatever they have to get attention, regardless of the cost to the community." Even the local MP had harsh words, criticizing the groups for bringing, "needless, negative attention" to the town.

In the immediate aftermath of the November press conference, a reported 3,000 residents and Port Hope merchants took to the streets to "save Port Hope." Business owners and government officials dominated newspapers and television news broadcasts.

Whether calculated or merely coincidental, their collective response followed a pattern that Waterkeeper has seen in dozens of communities facing environmental concerns.

First, the individuals and organizations who spoke out are ostracized. They are labeled trouble-makers, do-gooders, or wackos - anything that might separate them from "ordinary folk". This makes it harder for you and I to identify with their message or to share their concern. (See, for example, repetition of marginalizing terms in the Port Hope coverage such as "self-interest", "terrorist", "minority", etc.)

Second, access to a fair forum is limited. The public (regardless of point of view) is offered no independent decision-makers, scientific experts, counsel, testimony under oath, ability to cross-examine other speakers, or opportunity to appeal.

The whole point of a fair forum - be it a panel review environmental assessment, a hearing at the Environmental Review Tribunal, or a traditional court of law - is to get at the truth. To lay all the facts on the table. To test the assertions of every side. To bring a community together.

In a town like Port Hope, where neighbour is pitted against neighbour and the most basic information is not available, a full investigation is the only legitimate option. Every community has a right to know what property is polluted and what the contaminants are. Every community has a right to know what is being done to clean up those contaminated lands. Port Hope is no different.


Settlers and natives, united against the government

ROY MacGREGOR, Toronto Globe and Mail

3rd December 2007

Let us head down Snow Road on this morning when the plowed banks are higher than they have been any Dec. 3 for some time.

Let us visit on a bitter weekend when Environment Canada has predicted the coldest winter in 15 years.

And here let us talk about global warming - and the hints of heat to come in at least the next 15 years.

Snow Road is not far from the Sharbot Lake standoff between the Ardoch and Obaadjiwan Algonquin First Nations - joined by an increasing number of white neighbours - and Frontenac Ventures Corp. over uranium exploration in Eastern Ontario.

It is also the way to reach John and Sheila Kittle, a conservative, middle-age retired couple - he a math and physics graduate who worked in computers, she a registered nurse - who say they have never before considered themselves "activist" but who today are key members of a grassroots rebellion.

"We believe," says John Kittle, "that we are making Canadian history."

What they and hundreds of other white neighbours are doing is standing with the aboriginals who first set up a blockade back in June.

Together, they are up against big business, legislation, the courts, a provincial government and, to some extent, a widespread impatience with native blockades that, in the case of Sharbot Lake, has also set whites against whites.

It was a white, actually, who first sounded the alarm here. Frank Morrison, who owns a large tract of management forest, found disturbing signs of prospecting activity - including provincial-issued tags - on what he thought was protected land. When Morrison complained, he discovered he had no say in the matter. Ontario legislation more than a century old gave mining operations free entry onto his land to explore, with the landowner having no claim whatsoever on the mineral rights that lie below the surface.

The Algonquins also discovered similar activity on territory for which they had a massive land claim - land that stretched all the way from Sharbot Lake to Parliament Hill and beyond.

The aboriginal groups moved quickly to protest, the non-natives less quickly. The whites toyed with calling themselves some variation of "Frontenac Uranium Committee" but abandoned this when a member suggested the acronym might prove embarrassing. Instead, they began calling themselves the "Mississippi Watershed Settlers" and now claim to number around a thousand.

Settlers and natives against the government.

The potential area for exploration, they discovered, covered a vast watershed that included the nearby Mississippi, Madawaska, Ottawa and Gatineau rivers - essentially the Algonquin land claim - as well as the entire Rideau River/Canal system that was recently named a UNESCO World Heritage site.

John Kittle was worried about more than what some other locals accused him of - a predictable not-in-my-backyard reaction to needed development - in that he had once worked in a laboratory investigating the mysterious properties of uranium. It bothered him that the legislation that permits such exploration predated any real understanding of uranium's potential powers and health threats.

Frontenac Ventures was well within its rights to explore, according to the law of the land. After the blockade went up, the prospector turned to the courts to gain an order that would put an end to the blockade. The provincial police, however, perhaps unwilling to tempt another standoff incident, chose to use discretion and not fully execute the order. Lawsuits flew back and forth, a Mohawk Warrior flag continued to fly at the site, one of the settlers went on a dramatic hunger strike, and everything more or less ground to today's standstill.

The desire to find uranium is obvious in that its price at times makes oil look a slacker. The natives, however, say mining companies have no rights on a land claim that has yet to be settled. And the settlers say there is simply no need for more Canadian uranium, given the mines in northern Saskatchewan and current stockpiles.

They also warn about threats to health, saying mining will produce tailings, cause the release of radon gas - identified by Health Canada as the No. 1 cause of lung cancer after smoking - and possibly endanger area water tables.

The curious thing is that John Kittle, the reluctant activist, isn't even a fanatical opponent of nuclear energy, which so many in the global warming debate see as the best possible solution when it comes to eliminating the burning of fossil fuels for energy needs.

"I'm a 50-per-cent supporter," he says. He considers nuclear energy "dirty from end to end," from mining to disposal, but he also knows it might be a necessary evil if society is going to be able to move from traditional sources to cleaner energy sources such as wind and solar power.

"The thing is," he says, "no matter what your views, you don't have to mine this uranium."

Increasingly, he is finding agreement among area municipal councils, including the City of Kingston. This week, his group will launch its own legal action against the province of Ontario.

It is all enough to make you think that, despite Environment Canada's frigid predictions, things are only starting to heat up.

N.S. New Democrats call for permament ban on uranium mining


3rd December 2007

HALIFAX - Nova Scotia New Democrats plan to introduce legislation tonight to permanently ban uranium mining in the province.

The province introduced a ban in 1982 but its status has been unclear since 1995. NDP environment critic Graham Steele says the mining industry in the province has done nicely since the early 1980s without uranium and he wants to make the ban permanent.

He says Natural Resources Minister David Morse recently suggested he's open to the idea of lifting the moratorium on uranium mining.

Steele says the safety of uranium mining has always been controversial.

But he says the main reason to bring in a permanent ban is because uranium is used to build nuclear weapons and operate nuclear power plants.

News release - NDP would legislate uranium mining moratorium

3rd December 2007

Halifax - NDP Environment Critic, Graham Steele, will introduce legislation this evening in the House of Assembly that, if passed, would place a permanent ban on uranium mining in Nova Scotia. "There hasn't been uranium exploration or mining in Nova Scotia since the early-1980's," says Steele. "Our mining sector, which continues to be important to the provincial economy, has been able to carry on quite nicely without it. But the ban on uranium mining has never been legislated, and recently the Minister of Natural Resources said that he was open to the idea of lifting the moratorium." The ban on uranium mining was first introduced by the Buchanan government in 1982, which also set up a Commission of Inquiry headed by Judge Robert McCleave. The ban was continued by successive Orders in Council, the last one in 1995, but its current legal status is unclear. The NDP Bill would remove any doubt about the legal validity of the ban. "The safety of uranium mining has always been controversial, but that is not the main reason to legislate the moratorium," says Steele. "The most important reason for legislating the ban is that the principal use for uranium is in nuclear power plants and nuclear weapons." A legislated ban on uranium mining is widely supported by environmental groups across the province,” says Steele. "We believe that the vast majority of Nova Scotians do not wish to be part of the world's uranium economy.

Uranium mine will be safe, company tells Labrador community

CBC News

28th November 2007

Inuit leaders in Labrador are hearing different opinions about the effects of a proposed uranium mine near the coastal community of Postville.

Mining company Aurora Energy Resources brought its case for the mine to Nunatsiavut government members this week. It wants to have the mine operating by 2014.

Some Inuit have expressed worries about the mine contaminating the land, and the government is considering a ban on uranium mining.

Aurora vice-president John Roberts said the concerns are unfounded, and that tailings and waste from the mine would be limited to an area of two or three square kilometres.

"The tailings will be about 15 per cent less radioactive than the ore itself. It'll be deposited in an engineered containment area that will be properly managed and designed in accordance with the standards of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission," he said.

Roberts also said uranium mines in Canada have overcome past problems, and his company would use new technology.

"Fifty years ago when people were mining uranium they didn't have the techniques we have today, and they didn't know about the problems, and in some cases for various reasons such as wartime they had other priorities. And today there are very detailed systems to manage and engineer all of the protections," he said.

Retired chemist Sydney Brownstein also spoke to the assembly, and said the affected area could be larger than the company suggests.

"I'm not saying what they said is wrong, I'm just saying it's just not quite the whole truth," he said.

Brownstein said that over the long term some of the radioactive gas waste - including the dangerous gas Radon - would almost certainly travel much farther. He said experience from a uranium mine in Ontario shows that even minute amounts can cause cancer.

"We have well-documented cases of much higher death rates in Elliot Lake because of the uranium mines there, that's a natural happening because of the mine," he said.

Inuit leaders are hearing from two more experts on Wednesday.


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