Canada Uranium updatePublished by MAC on 2008-02-01
Canada Uranium update
1st February 2008
Aurora Energy says it needs more time to develop a plan for a uranium mine in coastal Labrador.
The the province of Saskatchewan has elected a government more friendly to uranium activity than former governments, and the province of New Brunswick is experiencing record breaking uranium exploration activity, with 10,000 stakes claimed in the past year, compared with just eight filed between 2000 and February 2007.
Bancroft Uranium has announced a contract with Greenspirit Strategies to act as its Public Relations firm, chaired by pro nuclear activist Patrick Moore, for their Monmouth Uranium Project near Bancroft in the province of Ontario.
CAPE (Citizen Action to Protect the Environment) has written a letter of concern to the Minister of Natural Resources over statements by the government of Nova Scotia regarding the danger of lifting a moratorium on uranium exploration and mining.
Jim Harding, an author and expert on Saskatchewan's uranium mining industry, has been on a book tour in communities in various provinces warning of the impacts of uranium mining.
The Deline community has stated its opposition to future uranium "development" given the numerous outsanding issues regarding the harm done by the now defunct Port Radium mine. Several Deline residents who worked as ore carriers have died of cancer.
Extra time needed to lay out uranium plan: miner
28th January 2008
A junior exploration company says it will need more time to develop a plan for a uranium mine proposed for coastal Labrador.
Aurora Energy had planned to complete a submission to Newfoundland and Labrador's Environment Department by the end of 2007.
Aurora Energy Resources hopes to mine for uranium near Postville on Labrador's coast.
The company now says the project - which is planned for an area about 35 kilometres south of Postville - will not be registered until the second quarter of this year.
Terry Rice, who heads a citizens' uranium committee in nearby Makkovik, said his group feels vindicated by the delay.
"We just feel that when they were saying that they were planning on registering the project by the end of 2007, that it was a little premature," Rice said.
"[The proponents] don't have a plan in place, which is what we've been stressing all along."
Aurora's plans to develop a uranium mine have divided opinion in the largely Inuit communities of Postville and Makkovik, with some welcoming the potential jobs and industrial benefits and others anxious about long-term environmental effects.
Aurora said it will use the coming weeks to develop a more comprehensive picture of what a uranium mine would look like. It also wants to do further engineering work on how to contain radioactive waste.
The statement will also involve a socio-economic impact study on Postville and Makkovik.
Bancroft Uranium Contracts Greenspirit Strategies for Public and Media Relations -- Former Greenpeace President Dr. Patrick Moore Joins Advisory Board
28th January 2008
Bancroft Uranium Inc. is pleased to advise that the Company has contracted Greenspirit Strategies Ltd. ("Greenspirit") to act as the Public Relations firm for Bancroft Uranium. The Greenspirit team will now act as a liaison to the public and media regarding all inquiries concerning the Monmouth Uranium Project near Bancroft, Ontario.
Greenspirit Strategies Ltd. works with leading organizations in forestry, biotechnology, aquaculture, plastics and mining, developing sustainability messaging in the areas of natural resources, biodiversity, energy and climate change. Greenspirit relies on the combined communications experience of a half-century of domestic and international engagement on sustainability -- from activism to sustainability communications programming in Canada, the United States, Brazil, Indonesia, Australia and throughout Europe. During the past 15 years, Greenspirit has managed the environmental reputation of leading global industries by engaging government, academic, environmental and social agencies. Greenspirit has participated in every stage of campaign planning and execution, from research and implementation to evaluation.
In related news, Company management wishes to announce the appointment of Greenspirit Chair and Chief Scientist Patrick Moore, Ph.D to Bancroft's Advisory Board. Dr. Moore is the head of Greenspirit Strategies and has been a leader in the international environmental field for more than 35 years. He is a co-founder of Greenpeace and served for nine years as President of Greenpeace Canada and seven years as a Director of Greenpeace International. As the leader of many campaigns, Dr. Moore was a driving force shaping policy and direction while Greenpeace became the world's largest environmental activist organization. In recent years, Dr. Moore has been focused on the promotion of sustainability and consensus building among competing concerns.
Les Hammond, President of Bancroft, states, "The Company is extremely pleased to have the Greenspirit Strategies team to assist Bancroft in a public relations role. The addition of Dr. Moore as an advisor to the Board of Directors will allow the Company access to his wealth of valuable experience regarding the Nuclear Industry and developing a strategy for the future of the Monmouth Uranium Deposit and other uranium projects within Bancroft's portfolio."
Information on Greenspirit Strategies Ltd. and Dr. Moore can be found at www.greenspiritstrategies.com.
Uranium exploration boom hits N.B.
Mining Claims around province total about 10,000 as heavy metal's price soars
Reid Southwick, Telegraph-Journal
29th January 2008
A global surge in uranium prices has brought exploration for the silvery metallic element to unprecedented levels in New Brunswick.
The province has become a centre of record investment in the past year from both regional and global firms racing to find the first active deposit of the mineral best known as a fuel for nuclear reactors.
Companies invested roughly $4 million in uranium exploration last year, with about 10,000 claims staked across the province. Just eight claims were filed between 2000 and February 2007, when rising uranium prices sparked the current exploration rush that has attracted one major and about nine junior mining companies to the province.
The last time exploration efforts even approached current levels was in 1979, when companies staked 8,200 claims for coal and uranium in the province. Energy prices rose in the late '70s after the Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) imposed an oil embargo on nations that supported Israel in a conflict at the time with Syria and Egypt.
"We had an explosion of interest in uranium in the '70s and '60s, and we're coming back to that," says Charles Jefferson, research manager with the Geological Survey of Canada.
"But what we're seeing is a fundamental change in [the] driver. Right now, it's because of the increased demand for energy from the developing world."
Uranium is trading at roughly US$86 per pound this week, down from $90 at the end of December, according to price publisher Ux Consulting. The element's value reached a record high of $136 per pound last June, which compares to a low of $7 in 2000.
The recent surge in price has attracted at least one of the world's largest mining companies. Vale Inco has exclusive rights over 136,000 hectares of land between Sussex and Moncton, the equivalent of 8,500 claims. The firm is the Canadian subsidiary one of the world's largest uranium mining firms, Companhia Vale do Rio Doce of Brazil, geologists estimate that companies won't identify a deposit large enough to mine for another five years. Uranium mining is governed by a complex regulatory approval system, which means it will be another 10 to 20 years before a deposit is exploited, geologists say.
Although it's still early days, preliminary research suggests the bedrock beneath New Brunswick soil shares similar characteristics with active uranium deposits in the southwestern United States and northern Saskatchewan, says Malcolm McLeod, geologist with the New Brunswick Department of Natural Resources.
The Athabasca Basin, a geological feature in Saskatchewan that produces roughly 25 per cent of the world's primary uranium, was formed under similar climatic conditions, with similar rock types and faults and fracture systems, says McLeod.
"There is no question that there are some similarities there, and there is great potential, maybe not for the spectacular tonnages and grades that they have in the Athabasca Basin, but certainly the models apply here," says McLeod.
But even these lower grades have sparked major interest across New Brunswick.
Quest Uranium Corporation, a Montreal-based uranium miner that holds 230 claims covering about 3,700 hectares of land northwest of Plaster Rock, plans to conduct exploration in four areas of its property this spring.
Previous exploration of Quest's property conducted in the 1970s found its samples ranged from 2.867 to 0.118 per cent uranium.
"That tells me the environment is conducive for the accumulation of uranium, and we're very encouraged by those numbers," says Peter Cashin, president and chief executive of Quest.
In addition to Quest and Vale Inco, mining companies exploring for uranium in New Brunswick include Tripple Uranium Resources Inc. of St. John's, Sparton Resources Inc. of Toronto, Cornerstone Resources Inc. of Mount Pearl, N.L., Landmark Resources Ltd. and Landmark Minerals Inc., both of Vancouver, and Alpha Uranium Resources Inc. of Halifax.
New government considers options for Saskatchewan's nuclear future
Tim Cook, THE CANADIAN PRESS
27th January 2008
REGINA - It was an analogy that developed in the 1970s as nuclear power plants were being developed around the world: Saskatchewan and its vast supply of unmined uranium would be to nuclear power what Saudi Arabia was to oil.
Over the last three decades the prediction has been realized and the province, better known for wide open spaces and wheat, has grown into the world's largest producer of the radioactive element.
But mining the raw material is as far as Saskatchewan has progressed in the nuclear cycle. Plans to develop a uranium refinery, build a nuclear reactor and even store nuclear waste have been shelved over the years in the face of stiff public opposition and concerns about feasibility.
Signs of change, however, are starting to emerge with a newly elected provincial government intent on moving the industry forward. The right-leaning Saskatchewan Party is not as fettered by internal conflict over the issue as its left-leaning NDP predecessor, and everything short of the nuclear waste storage idea appears to be back on the table.
"Who knows what opportunities lie ahead in this area for the province?" Premier Brad Wall said recently. "I believe we can lead in this area, certainly in research and development."
Saskatchewan first looked at developing the uranium industry in the 1940s and '50s under then premier Tommy Douglas as a means of diversifying its agricultural economy. In the 1970s the mining industry expanded rapidly thanks to several big finds in the north.
The province enjoyed a comfortable relationship with the industry until people began to question where the uranium was ending up, said Bill Waiser, a historian at the University of Saskatchewan.
"They were beginning to question the morality of it," Waiser says. "There are ecological concerns about it and 'Are we facilitating the arms race unintentionally?"'
Former NDP premier Allan Blakeney, who oversaw the widespread expansion in the 1970s, recalls pitching uranium mining in Saskatchewan as something the province had to do for the sake of the rest of the world.
"As the world was developing and as the Third World was developing, there was going to be a need for significant new sources of power. One of those was uranium, and we had a moral duty to contribute," Blakeney says now.
"We have got virtually every power source in the world and there is one million of us, and we're saying, 'Oh, those people over there shouldn't be generating their power over there using uranium.' This is not a very good piece of moral ground to stand on."
Still public opposition prevented the industry from developing further than punching holes in the ground and bringing the ore to the surface.
In 1980 a proposal to build a uranium refinery in Warman, north of Saskatoon, was killed because of the impact it might have on the largely Mennonite community.
In the early 1990s both the Progressive Conservative government and the NDP government were in talks with Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd. to build a Candu 3 reactor in the province, but the idea was shelved because of cost and lack of need.
In the mid-1990s the Meadow Lake Tribal Council, an organization representing several northern First Nations, briefly studied the idea of storing nuclear waste on its land but backed down after widespread protests.
"It caused a lot of controversy and a lot of difficult feelings," Vern Bachiu, general manager with the tribal council's development corporation, recalls today.
With a new government in power and a premier who talks about nuclear opportunities every chance he gets, people on both sides of the debate are watching the situation closely.
While the previous NDP government had expressed interest in refining uranium in the province, Steve McLellan, CEO of the Saskatchewan Chamber of Commerce, figures the business-friendly Saskatchewan Party will take a "hard look" at attracting a company to do it.
"We, particularly, are quite optimistic," McLellan says. "Anything that adds value to things that are mined here is great for business."
Some, like former NDP deputy premier Dwain Lingenfelter, say Saskatchewan's wide open spaces make it ideal for every step of the cycle, including power generation and waste storage. While conventional reactors are widely seen as producing too much power for the province's needs, Lingenfelter argues Saskatchewan could become a power hub and supply energy to the rest of Canada and the United States.
"The first thing that has to happen is the government in the province has to say to the world that they're interested, which hasn't happened to this point," says Lingenfelter, who is now an executive with the Calgary-based oil company Nexen.
"I think it takes more than governments saying, 'Yeah, we are sort of in favour of it, but we will see how it goes."'
Wall has expressed interest in research being done around small-scale nuclear reactors that would produce power at a level more suitable to the province's needs. He's also talked about the idea of developing a research reactor such as the one in Chalk River, Ont., which produces medical isotopes.
Ann Coxworth, with the Saskatchewan Environmental Society, acknowledges that the current political situation in the province does not favour the anti-nuclear movement.
"I think we have quite a struggle ahead of us, so there is a lot of work to be done," she says. "The forces that want to go down that nuclear path are pretty powerful right now."
Coxworth is worried that those who oppose nuclear energy may have been lulled into a sense of complacency over the last few years.
"When these issues were being quite actively discussed - say in the 1970s - the public got quite well informed about the issues," she says.
A letter from CAPE over possible lifting of uranium moratorium in Nova Scotia
5740 Rte. 215, RR#1 Newport
Hants Co., N.S. B0N 2A0
23rd January 2008
To: The Honorable David Morse, MLA
Minister of Natural Resources,
Province House, Nova Scotia.
Dear Minister Morse,
In October of last year several members of CAPE (Citizen Action to Protect the Environment) were startled and concerned to read media reports of your own and Premier MacDonald’s comments which strongly suggested that the present government was seriously contemplating the nuclearization of Nova Scotia, both in considering the possibility of a nuclear reactor and lifting the present moratorium on uranium exploration and mining.
Some of our members who have followed energy issues for a number of years were particularly astonished by your presentation of nuclear power as a â€œcleanâ€ and â€œgreenâ€ source of energy and a potential solution to climate change. While this is a point of view routinely presented by the nuclear industry and its advocates, a more realistic assessment of energy needs and sources suggests something quite different.
First of all, while it is perfectly true that operating nuclear reactors have only inconsequential carbon dioxide emissions, the nuclear cycle as a whole is extremely fossil-fuel-intensive. The mining and milling of uranium requires colossal amounts of energyâ€”particularly in locations like Nova Scotia where the grade of ore is comparatively low.
Further, while naturally occurring uranium is abundant in Nova Scotia in low concentrations, as it is in many other places on the planet, it is nevertheless, like fossil fuels, a finite resource. As with fossil fuels, when more accessible and high grade sources become exhausted, the industry attempts to exploit lower grades with ever-increasing energy inputs and serious environmental consequences.
Most important of all perhaps is the fact of the astronomical cost of nuclear power plants combined with the extraordinarily long time it takes for a nuclear power plant to begin production. For example, the reactor which AECL is currently attempting to sell to the UK would not, in the quite unlikely event of its being approved, come on line until 2017 or 2018. [Globe and Mail, Jan. 7, 2008] The enormous expense of this process, combined with the massive government subsidies it entails, results in diverting funds which would otherwise be used to develop renewable energy sources whose beneficial effects in reducing climate-altering emissions would come into effect immediately.
We have not addressed here the problem of nuclear waste storage’s problem which remains as insoluble now as when the first civilian reactors were developed in the years after World War II. In itself, the issue of the radioactive waste, which continues to accumulate at reactor sites around the world with no solution in sight, relegates the notion of nuclear power as “clean” and “green” to the realm of wishful thinking.
The original CAPE group studied the issue of uranium exploration and mining over 20 years ago and presented a detailed brief on the subject to the McCleave Inquiry. They concluded that uranium exploitation was entirely unacceptable in Nova Scotia. They were joined in this conclusion by an enormous range of individuals and groups representing agricultural, medical, environmental, and community interests. A partial list of groups presenting briefs in opposition to uranium exploitation is given below. Tellingly, even groups which might have been expected to be in favour of uranium mining as a matter of self-interest expressed strong opposition. For example, the Nova Scotia Federation of Labour called for a moratorium to be put in effect, stating, “Our Federation . . . is not concerned with industrial development or jobs at any price.”
The present CAPE group has been actively studying this issue since it became clear that the moratorium is effectively in abeyance. We have looked at industry claims that it has improved on its past appalling environmental record. However, we have found that, even in areas like Northern Saskatchewan where the high grades of ore have justified major economic investment in more sophisticated methods of containment, the catalogue of spills, leakage and seepage from tailings disposal areas continues to grow.
There are also some very serious concerns particular to Nova Scotia. For example, according to Environment Canada, “In Nova Scotia, the wet climate, generally high water table, and generally acidic waters may pose special problems to radioactive waste management.”
[Brief to McCleave Inquiry EPS-7-AR-82-1]
Recently, our concern has been heightened by media reports which indicate that, not only is the current government considering lifting the existing moratorium on uranium exploration and mining, but that at least one company (Capella/Tripple Uranium), whose sole interest in this region is in exploring for uranium, is already being permitted to drill in areas with significant uranium mineralization. We understand that Capella/Tripple Uranium currently has a drill rig in operation near the Millet Brook area. This area has a well-delineated ore body with documented average concentrations between twice and twenty times over the 100 ppm beyond which your department guidelines indicate drilling must cease. [Kidd Creek submission to McCleave Inquiry, p. 72]
That drilling is being permitted in this area suggests that Nova Scotia’s “moratorium” is a mere sham. We note you have recently stated that, “If it comes to our attention that somebody is ignoring the moratorium . . .then we will enforce the moratorium.” (Chronicle Herald, Jan 6, 2008). Since it appears from the current DNR guidelines on exploration that your department merely relies on companies to report findings in excess of 100ppm and makes no independent effort to monitor results, it is hard to imagine what is meant by “enforcement” of the moratorium.
Permitting any uranium company to continue to explore inevitably signals that mining will be eventually permitted. The Millet Brook site, which abuts the headwaters of the Avon River system, was identified as such a site by Kidd Creek Mines in 1982. They were prevented from developing a mine because of public concern for that river system and because a broad cross-section of Nova Scotians became aware that the value of a short-lived mine operation (10-15 years at best) could not be ranked alongside the potential for permanent contamination and subsequent health effects.
The current interpretation of the moratorium by your department appears to permit uranium companies to continue drilling with no requirement to submit results within a specific time period and without any independent monitoring. Capella/Tripple Uranium spent $493,452 on drilling in Wentworth in 2007 before moving a drill rig to the Millet Brook area. Reports of the uranium concentrations from those drill cores are yet to be released. In our view this does not amount to “enforcement” of the moratorium.
We are, therefore, formally requesting that you honour the true intention of the moratorium. Since the Millet Brook vicinity is characterized by documented concentrations of uranium significantly in excess of the 100 ppm, any real enforcement of the intent of the moratorium must require the permit holder now drilling on or near this property to cease all ground disturbance operations pending release of assay results from the samples they have already obtained.
We look forward with interest to your reply. Yours truly,
Some of the groups that opposed uranium exploitation in Nova Scotia
Nova Scotia Medical Society Community Health Committee
Valley Medical Society
Nova Scotia Federation of Labour
Nova Scotia Federation of Agriculture
Canadian Nature Federation
Community Planning Association
The Health Coalition of Nova Scotia
Women’s Health Education Network
Nova Scotia Cream Producers
Digby East Fish and Game Association
Bear River Board of Trade
Recreation Association of Nova Scotia
Ecology Action Centre
Harrietsfield and Williamswood Ratepayers’ Association
Kings Association to Save the Environment
South Shore Environmental Protection Association
Citizen Action to Protect the Environment
Saskatchewan uranium expert brings warning to eastern Ontario, western Quebec
Four city tour to reveal uranium's long-term ecological and health pain for short-term private economic gain
by Lynn Daniluk
22nd Janury 2008
OTTAWA - An expert on Saskatchewan's uranium mining industry will warn people against letting the industry establish itself in the Ottawa River watershed in a 5-day book tour Jan. 22-26, 2008.
"Don't let the uranium industry set up shop in the Ottawa River watershed," warned Jim Harding, author of Canada's Deadly Secret: Saskatchewan Uranium and the Global Nuclear System, on the eve of his 4-city tour.
"Our toxic experience in Saskatchewan puts the lie to the industry's promise that uranium mining is safe," Harding said. "Even drilling for core samples in uranium-rich areas releases dangerous radon gases into the atmosphere. The reality is local residents and those downwind and downstream of mines are left to deal with the deadly legacy of increased rates of cancer and other health problems."
"Radon gas, only one by-product of the uranium decay chain, is known as the second leading cause of lung cancer," Harding said. "The Mississippi, Ottawa and Rideau River watersheds - and all those who live on or near them - are at risk of radioactive contamination if uranium mining is allowed to proceed."
Harding is a retired professor of environmental and justice studies. As Director of Research in School of Human Justice at the University of Regina, he headed up the Uranium Inquiries Project. Harding will visit Ottawa, Wakefield, Perth and Carleton Place from Jan. 22 to 26. There are approximately 30,000 acres of active uranium claims in eastern Ontario, which affect unceded Algonquin land and private property near Sharbot Lake. In Western Quebec, exploration companies have staked hundreds of claims blanketing tens of thousands of acres of land from Wakefield to Fort Coulonge. These claims include provincially designated wildlife habitats that have been staked by the Quebec government's own Crown company SOQUEM Inc.
"We have plenty of direct experience with how aboriginal rights are handled when it comes to uranium mining," Dr. Harding said. "When the Saskatchewan government allowed the expansion of the uranium industry in the late 1970s it totally ignored aboriginal rights." "Then when a 1993 federal-provincial inquiry recommended against a uranium mine, in part due to cumulative effects on the aboriginal land base, the government simply ignored this and plowed ahead", he continued. "Furthermore, though the government guaranteed that our uranium would no longer be used for weapons, we now know this is not true," Harding added. "Uranium from Saskatchewan is the main source for both the U.S. and France, countries where the military and commercial nuclear systems are highly integrated. Our uranium has become the U.S.'s main source for depleted uranium (DU), which is used for a variety of military purposes", Harding continued. Dr. Harding will talk of the growing interdependence of Ontario and Saskatchewan in their struggles for a non-nuclear way to tackle global warming. "With Saskatchewan-based Cameco, the largest uranium company in the world, and operator of the Port Hope uranium conversion plant and the Bruce reactors, now supporting nuclear power in Alberta and an international nuclear waste dump in Saskatchewan, we are being challenged to quickly put our collective heads and resources together", said Harding.
According to the Canadian Nuclear Association, over 80 per cent of Canadian uranium is exported - a full 76 per cent to the United States. "While Ontario's Premier says uranium mining must expand in Ontario to supply fuel for its nuclear power, the fact is that most Canadian (Saskatchewan) uranium is exported, and under NAFTA we are being integrated in the U.S. military-industrial nuclear system", Harding stated. "Our sovereignty as well as ecology calls for conversion of our energy system towards renewable, sustainable forms," he concluded.
Harding's visit is an opportunity for local residents to learn what is at stake should uranium exploration and mining go ahead near Sharbot Lake and in West Quebec.
Deline says no to further uranium development
Northern News Services
21st January 2008
FORT FRANKLIN - The Deline Land Corp. will oppose all future uranium development in its district until outstanding issues having to do with the old Port Radium mine are resolved, the organization announced recently.
The move stems from dissatisfaction among Deline community members, who are waiting for issues to be resolved between Indian and Northern Affairs Canada and the land corporation before granting further access to land, according to Danny Geudet, the chief negotiator for the corporation.
The outstanding issues stem from 26 recommendations made to the federal government in 2005 concerning the long-term social and health effects of the long-defunct Eldorado Mine at Port Radium, which operated as a radium and uranium mine from 1931 to 1960 and as a silver mine from 1964 to 1982.
Several Deline residents who worked as ore carriers died of cancer, according to the land corporation.
"There's still 17 other items that have not been addressed, dealing with health and social issues," said Geudet.
The corporation is currently in talks with INAC, added Geudet.
"We're taking action now," he said. "Government has called and said they want to sit down at the table again with Deline."
Deline community members are concerned about further development by Alberta Star, a Vancouver-based exploration company looking for base and precious metals, as well as uranium, in Port Radium.
Alberta Star has worked out a permit to explore Port Radium, but not the surrounding area, which it is also interested in, and that's a problem, says Geudet.
"The community has nothing against Alberta Star, or any company," said Geudet. "All it's saying is that there's a whole series of issues that are not addressed out of the recommendations.
"In order for the community to go forward, we need to address those issues. Then we can work towards developing more."
Tim Coupland, president of Alberta Star, said the company has done approximately $18 million worth of drilling in Port Radium, and that it is also interested in exploring nearby areas.
"We've applied for a permit (elsewhere), but (the corporation's announcement) does not affect our operation in any way, shape or form," said Coupland.
"Uranium is an aside. If we get some, it's a bonus. But our primary focus is on base and precious metals."
Coupland said there are other companies looking for uranium that could be affected by the Deline Land Corporation's decision, such as Solitaire Minerals Corporation, also of Vancouver, which has a 21,000-acre property adjoining Alberta Star's.
"They don't have a permit," said Coupland. "It's going to have a serious impact on their ability to conduct business up there."
Mike Vaydik, general manager of the NWT Chamber of Mines, said while he understands the Deline Land Corp.'s decision, the effect on the mining industry will be negative.
"It's a concern, because if we can't explore, we can't develop the next mine," Vaydik said.
"Everybody's fat and happy right now because the diamond mines are producing jobs and business opportunities. But the mines have a limited life. In fact, the end of Ekati is in sight. And if we don't allow exploration, we're not going to have the jobs to replace those.