MAC: Mines and Communities

Canada Uranium update

Published by MAC on 2008-01-18

Canada Uranium update

18th January 2008

New Brunswick environmental groups and communities have been organising further. to block uranium mining, while First Nations in Eastern Ontario are vowing a return to a proposed uranium mine site in order to halt any exploitation.

Conflicting messages are emerging from Nova Scotia over whether its uranium moratorium will be in place much longer. In early January, the province's Natural Resources Minister said it was; a fortnight later his department was reported to be seriously considering lifting the ban.

Nuclear hazards are closer to home than you think

Conservation Council of N.B. and Petitcodiac Riverkeepers support a ban on all uranium mining.

Lise Elsliger, HERE NB

17th January 2008

Most people think that the only danger with nuclear energy is found in the nuclear power itself. Turns out it's only part of the problem. The Petitcodiac Riverkeepers and the Conservation Council of N.B. joined forces last June in support of a ban on all uranium mining, the product used in the creation of nuclear energy, New Brunswick watersheds and privately owned lands. Why have do they support a ban? Due to the radioactive nature of the residues left behind from the mining of the uranium itself.

The three communities of Cambridge Narrows, Hoyt and Moncton are presently talking to the government in protest of mining in their areas. Public meetings have already been held in the Cocagne area, where many properties have been earmarked by prospectors. David Coon is policy director with the Conservation Council of N.B. He's greatly concerned with the health risks of uranium mining.

"Our research on this issue shows that the history of uranium mining exploration in Canada does little to reassure the public. For example, in 1989, 2,000,000 litres of radioactive water spilled into Wollaston Lake in Saskatchewan as a result of uranium mining activity. We also know that in 1976, all 55 miles of the Serpent River system near Elliot Lake, Ontario, were badly contaminated by uranium mining. Why take a risk, any risk at all, when it comes to our water, especially our drinking water?" questioned Mr.Coon.

Those opposing uranium mining feel that uranium is best left in ground because of its inherent toxicity. With uranium, the mineral itself, when brought to the surface, is toxic since it produces toxic radioactive pollutants. The problem results from the substance that's left behind. The leftover crushed rock particles, water, mill chemicals, and radioactive and otherwise hazardous contaminants, are called "uranium tailings". Eighty-five per cent of what's mined ends up as tailings. Uranium tailings contain over a dozen radioactive materials, such as radon gas. Major impacts of mining include water contamination, danger to landscape and wildlife, and danger to human health.

Yvonne Devine, president of the Southeastern Chapter of CCNB, has made it a mission to fully understand all aspects of uranium mining in N.B. Upon her retirement from an environment related position with ACOA, she has done a great deal of research on the subject and gives presentations to groups all over the province. The problem, she explains, resides in the N.B. Mining Act itself.

"What people don't understand," she explains, "is that it's not crown and they're prospecting on. They have the right to prospect on any and. People only own the top soil of their property. Minerals are the property of the crown."

One of the problems is that the area where they're prospecting is along the edge of Moncton's watershed.

"Your water is your most important asset," she says. "We have a great water treatment plant that is finally giving the Greater Moncton area quality drinking water." Companies prospecting for uranium on the edge of this watershed. In doing so, they can push contaminants into the watershed and contaminate the water. When they prospect, arsenic and other chemicals end up into people's wells. "Uranium in the ground has a certain radioactivity to it that's contained when it's in the ground," Devine says. "When you bring it up to the surface, it's airborne." Anyone who is around the mining areas gets uranium tailing and it causes cancer, among other things. That area of land, where they have mined, is contaminated for thousands of years.

"We're trying to make the government understand," Devine explains. "That the economy shouldn't be at the expense of the people. If you don't have water, if everything is contaminated, it doesn't matter how much gold you have in your pocket if you die. And they don't seem to get it."

For more info on uranium mining in N.B. contact Yvonne Devine at

First Nations vow to occupy eastern Ont. site to block uranium mining


11th January 2008

TORONTO - Aboriginals in eastern Ontario warned Friday that they would ignore a court order and illegally occupy the site of a proposed uranium mine north of Kingston later this month unless the province calls a halt to the project.

The Ardoch Algonquin First Nation said it usually permits mining activities on its lands, but will not tolerate uranium exploration because of its impact on the environment and potential to adversely affect people's health.

"The destruction of the land, the consequence of a uranium mine being built, and the health effects will be devastating on our community," former Ardoch chief Robert Lovelace told a news conference at the legislature.

"We have taken a stand that there will be no uranium mine in that area."

The Ardoch First Nation is fighting Frontenac Ventures Corp., which has staked approximately 400 mineral claims covering more than 8,000 hectares of land, and successfully won a court injunction last October to prevent aboriginals from occupying the site.

Lovelace said he doesn't expect any agreement between the two sides before a court-ordered consultation process ends Jan. 28, so First Nations protesters will attempt to return to the site on that date to prevent any further activities by the mining company.

"We feel that our backs are against the wall," he said. "We do have legal rights, and a legal obligation under our own lands to protect our land and to protect our neighbours."

But the Ardoch First Nation opted out of a larger negotiating process involving other Ontario Algonquins and has no standing to object to the uranium exploration, Frontenac Ventures president and CEO George White said in an interview.

"This renegade group of Ardoch Indians, they want to take things into their own hands," White said. "If in fact Mr. Lovelace plans to reoccupy the property, that would be in direct contravention of a contempt of court order issued previously."

White said the Ardoch First Nation was trying to use public pressure on the government to try and halt the project instead of negotiating a memorandum of understanding with the company.

"By provocation and pressing and pressing and pressing the government, they think this issue may be resolved," he said. "The only way to resolve it is through the courts."

Lovelace released an open letter Friday to Premier Dalton McGuinty which warns the controversy could escalate into another tragedy similar to the fatal 1995 shooting of aboriginal protester Dudley George at Ipperwash Provincial Park.

"It is my hope and my prayer that no individual is harmed in finding a resolution to this situation."

He also accused the Liberals of ignoring the recommendations of the Ipperwash inquiry, saying the government has adopted a position of "civil indifference" towards First Nations despite its promise to use the report to forge a new, better relationship with aboriginal Ontarians.

"It's important for the premier of this province to recognize that the recommendations that were set down by Justice (Sydney) Linden to avoid these very same situations as happened at Ipperwash . . . need to be taken seriously," said Lovelace.

"The government of Ontario has simply decided on a strategy of civil indifference: simply stand back and hope that things don't take place and it's business as usual. Certainly, in our case, it has been business as usual (as it was before) the Ipperwash inquiry."

The Ipperwash inquiry report concluded judicial processes such as injunctions were not appropriate or desirable when dealing with aboriginal rights and should be used only as a last resort, he added.

Northern Development and Mines Minister Michael Gravelle said the government wants to take a look at the Ardoch First Nation's proposal for a moratorium on exploration in the disputed area, but is still hoping for a negotiated resolution.

"We take very seriously our obligation to consult with aboriginal communities in relation to mining activities," Gravelle said.

"We are still optimistic that we can work our way through this. It's definitely a challenge, I won't argue that."

First Nations vow to occupy eastern Ont. site to block uranium mining


11th January 2008

TORONTO - Aboriginals in eastern Ontario warn they will occupy a proposed uranium mine north of Kingston later this month unless the province calls a halt to the project.

The Ardoch Algonquin First Nation says it usually permits mining and other activities on its lands, but it cannot accept uranium exploration.

Former Ardoch chief Robert Lovelace says mining uranium destroys the land and threatens the health, well-being and cultural survival of the Algonquins.

Lovelace says he doesn't expect an agreement with an exploration company, Frontenac Ventures Corporation, before a court-ordered consultation process ends Jan. 28.

He wrote an open letter to Premier Dalton McGuinty, warning of the potential for another tragedy similar to the fatal shooting of an aboriginal protester at Ipperwash provincial park in 1995.

Lovelace accuses the Liberals of ignoring the recommendations of the Ipperwash inquiry, saying the government has adopted a position of "civil indifference" towards Ontario First Nations.

N.S. uranium mining ban could be lifted - premier

By DAVID JACKSON Provincial Reporter, The Chronicle Herald

18th January 2008

The Natural Resources Department is looking at whether it's time to lift a ban on uranium exploration that dates back to the early 1980s.

"I've asked the minister and the department to take a look at the issue, and at the appropriate time, they'll bring forward recommendations to government, and from there, we will make a decision," Premier Rodney MacDonald said Thursday after a cabinet meeting.

The premier said there's no deadline for completion of the review.

"They've started the work . . . but it could be some time before we make a decision, and we're not firm on any timeline on this particular issue just yet," he said.

Mr. MacDonald had said in the fall that he was "open" to the possibility of lifting the ban, which has been in place since 1982. He has also said it isn't a priority for his government.

The premier was much clearer Thursday about whether any work on reconsidering the moratorium was underway than he was Wednesday, when he told The Chronicle Herald's editorial board, "We are not in that process, but we haven't closed the door to it."

Mr. MacDonald said Thursday that Canada's premiers have talked together about the importance of nuclear energy.

"That is much more acceptable today than it was in the 1980s, and you need uranium for that process, so it's only logical that we take a look at the issue," Mr. MacDonald said.

Environmentalists and others are already mobilizing in support of the ban. The Council of Canadians is holding a public information meeting on the issue tonight in Chester Grant.

"There's huge environmental and health risks with uranium mining, and they really haven't really come up with technology to deal with the tailings," said Frank Fawson, an organizer with the council's South Shore chapter. "They're radioactive, some of them for thousands of years."

A representative of the Mining Association of Canada wasn't available for comment.

Mr. MacDonald said Nova Scotia is one of the few places in the world that doesn't allow uranium exploration. He said nuclear energy could be part of the answer in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

The premier said Wednesday that a review of the moratorium would have to include looking at what's happening in other jurisdictions, as well as "why, in the first place, it was put in place and whether it was based on science and whether it was based on perhaps politics."

He said the science behind allowing uranium exploration would have to make sense for the government to actually lift the ban.

Environmentalists are concerned about Tripple Uranium Resources Inc. drilling holes searching for minerals in Wentworth and in Millet Brook, between Windsor and Chester. The company's exploration licence from the province allows it to search for many minerals, but not uranium.

The company is likely to find trace amounts of uranium, but if the quantity is too high, the exploration would be shut down, Natural Resources Minister David Morse said earlier this month.

Minister: Uranium moratorium still in place

Province probing reports firm drilling in search of mineral

By CLARE MELLOR, Business Reporter, The Chronicle Herald

5th January 2008

Natural Resources Minister David Morse says any company found violating the province's moritorium on uranium exploration and mining could be shut down. Environmental groups and opposition politicians are worried the 25-year-old ban could be lifted. (Tera Camus / Cape Breton Bureau)

The province has not given out any licences or permits that would allow Tripple Uranium Resources Inc. to search for uranium in Nova Scotia, says Natural Resources Minister David Morse.

"If it comes to our attention that somebody is ignoring the moratorium (on uranium mining and exploration), then we will enforce the moratorium," he said Friday.

Mr. Morse made the comments in response to concerns that Tripple is drilling holes searching for uranium in Wentworth and in Millet Brook, between Windsor and Chester.

The province imposed a ban on uranium exploration and mining in 1982, due to public concern about its safety.

Tripple, owned by Capella Resources Ltd. of Vancouver, holds exploration licences issued by the province that allows it to search for a wide range of minerals, but the licences exclude uranium.

"They can have an exploration licence which is going to inevitably introduce them to trace amounts of uranium because it is prevalent everywhere, but if they hit 100 parts per million (of uranium), they're to notify the department and basically we shut it down," Mr. Morse said. "That is the law in the province today."

Dennis van Dyke, president of Capella Resources, was travelling Friday and could not be reached for comment. A Capella news release posted on Canada News Wire in November said the company expected to complete its drilling of 14 holes on the company's Titus property (between Windsor and Chester) by mid-December 2007.

A September news release said that the company had drilled 10 holes on its Wentworth property. Capella did not say in the news release what mineral it is searching for.

Nova Scotia is the only province that has a ban on uranium exploration.

After people called in the past few days to suggest that uranium exploration is going on, Mr. Morse said he discussed the matter with the acting deputy minister and senior staff in his department

"I've expressed my concerns that the moratorium be enforced by the department - that was never in question - and I have every expectation that if (the acting deputy minister) can confirm that this (uranium exploration) in fact is happening in the province that he will take the steps necessary to enforce the moratorium."

Allowing mineral exploration by a known uranium company in a known uranium-rich area, between Windsor and Chester, shows the province is getting ready to lift the ban on uranium mining and exploration, NDP environment critic Graham Steele said.

Questions have been raised about whether the company in question is analyzing its drilling samples to make sure it hasn't hit a deposit of uranium or is waiting until it finishes all its test drilling before doing the analysis, he said.

Mr. Steele, who said he has concerns that the public will not be properly consulted on the uranium issue, said he has heard from many people and environmental groups who are worried that "(Mr. Morse's) heart is not in the moratorium."

The Council of Canadians, a citizens group, has planned a meeting on the uranium issue Jan. 18 in Chester.

Mr. Morse said Friday the province does not have any plans to remove the moratorium without Nova Scotians' approval.



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