Canada Uranium - in and out of the countryPublished by MAC on 2008-07-14
Cameco buys Australian uranium stake, in spite of moratorium
The Globe and Mail
10th July 2008
In one of its largest deals yet, Cameco Corp. is buying a 70-per-cent interest in the Kintyre uranium deposit in Western Australia from Rio Tinto PLC for $346.5-million (U.S.).
There's only one problem: The state government has long prohibited the development of new uranium mines in Western Australia, including Kintyre.
Cameco chief executive officer Jerry Grandey is confident, however, that the moratorium on the mining of new deposits of uranium, which is used to make fuel for nuclear reactors, will eventually be lifted.
In an interview, he said nuclear energy's potential role as a way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, is softening political opposition to uranium mining and nuclear power.
"We hope the state will enter into a dialogue with us that will allow the project to go forward. I'm optimistic about that because you can see how increasingly important uranium is becoming in light of the climate change debate," Mr. Grandey said.
Kintyre is one of the world's best-known untapped uranium deposits. Based on historical drilling results, Saskatoon-based Cameco believes it contains between 62 million and 80 million pounds of uranium.
The deposit has neither an official resource or reserve estimate under Canadian mining rules.
The Kintyre deposit has been known about since 1985 when uranium was first discovered in the area. Rio Tinto decided to mothball the project in 1988 when uranium prices plunged to $12 a pound. Last year, spot prices for the radioactive metal soared to more than $130 a pound, but have since fallen back to about $60.
Amid a frenzy of uranium deals in 2006 and 2007, Cameco sat on the sidelines in the belief that valuations were too high. With the commodity price and the stock market valuations of upstart competitors having fallen back to Earth, Mr. Grandey said the world's largest uranium producer is now more comfortable with acquisitions.
Rio Tinto put several mining assets on the auction block last year, including Kintyre, to help pay for its $38-billion acquisition of Montreal aluminum producer Alcan.
A subsidiary of Japan's Mitsubishi Corp. is buying the other 30 per cent of Kintyre, bringing the deal's total value to $495-million.
Cameco has been searching for uranium in Western Australia since 1997, but has had little success. It has exploration licences for more than 795,000 hectares of land. Some are in close proximity to the Kintyre deposit.
While it likely will be years before a mine is built, Mr. Grandey said Australia could eventually be a major production hub for the company. Its largest operations are in Canada, including McArthur River in its home province of Saskatchewan, which is the world's richest uranium mine.
Cameco also has mining operations in the United States and Kazakhstan.
"We've had a policy for many years of trying to geographically diversify our sources of supply. This fits very well with that strategy," Mr. Grandey said.
Ground-staking stoppage rattles mining firms
Ben Shingler, Telegraph-Journal
8th July 2008
SAINT JOHN - The provincial government's decision to halt all ground claims in the middle of peak season signals that "New Brunswick is not open for business until further notice," says a provincial mining development organization.
In a statement released Sunday, the New Brunswick Prospectors and Developers Association said the government's resolution to freeze all ground claims until November already has some firms redirecting their exploration funds outside the province.
On Friday, the provincial government announced it would ban uranium exploration in municipalities, watershed and within 300 metres of private homes. The government also suspended claim-staking until an electronic map-staking system can be implemented.
"We understand that the government had to deal with the concerns and issues of citizens," said Elisabeth Spatz DiVeto, president of the Bathurst-based association.
"We accept the cutback in uranium, but also want to a point out that a sudden stop in ground-staking will have an economic impact, and a ripple effect."
The association wants the government to allow ground-staking to continue until online map staking is implemented, or at least provide a window of several months for explorers to acquire new property and prepare for the freeze.
"We know the government is understaffed, and that the new system will likely take longer than expected," she said.
"If ground staking continues, investors will know that New Brunswick is still a good place to do business."
The mining industry contributed $1.6 billion to the provincial economy in the last year up from over $800 million the year before.
"I'm afraid this will drive companies away faster than anything else the government has done. With Brunswick Mine closing in two years time, the government has shot itself in the foot big-time by forbidding staking in the Bathurst Mining Camp," Dick Mann, secretary of the association, said in email.
Mann said the government should have taken more time to study the regulations and structures implemented in other areas, such as Saskatchewan, where uranium exploration and mining occur.
"I feel that we would then have a set of rules based more on science and experience than on emotion," said Mann.
"This appears to have been a knee-jerk reaction to appease voters in the vote rich part of the province, and the regulations could probably have been more (finely) tuned."
Added DiVeto: "Mining is a major supporter of in the government's goal towards self-sufficiency. Claim-staking is part of the process."
Statement from KI and Ardoch
For Immediate Release
7th July 2008
Court of Appeal Calls on Ontario to Negotiate with KI and Ardoch
On February 15, 2008, Robert Lovelace, retired Chief of the Ardoch Algonquin First Nation, was sentenced to six months in a maximum security prison. His crime? He had declared that he could not obey a court order which banned peaceful protest against uranium exploration on his community's territory in eastern Ontario, because he must obey Algonquin law which forbids uranium mining and exploration. The government of Ontario had approved the exploration in 2006 without any consultation with the Ardoch Algonquins and without any regard for the sensitive ecology of the area.
On March 17, Chief Donny Morris and five other leaders of the Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug (KI) received a similar six month sentence in a very similar case. In KI's case Ontario had also approved the staking and exploration of land which KI says is part of its traditional territory, and which should not be subjected to the environmental impacts of mining. The six KI leaders: Chief Morris, Dpty. Chief Jack McKay, Spokesperson Sam McKay, Councilors Cecilia Begg and Daryl Sainnawap and Bruce Sakakeep became known as the "KI Six". Like the Ardoch Algonquins, they had refused to obey a court order prohibiting them from interfering with mining in their territory.
In both cases, Ontario's Minister of Aboriginal Affairs, Michael Bryant, instructed Ontario's lawyers to support the mining companies in seeking the harshest possible punishment for our "disobedience" of Ontario's laws. The government made it clear at every step of the legal proceedings that their only priority is to support the 19th century Mining Act which states that mining is always the best use of land, and any peaceful protesters who oppose mining should expect jail and crippling fines.
The incarceration of seven respected community leaders for peacefully obeying their own laws and resisting the destruction of their territories led to an outpouring of support for KI and Ardoch and calls from environmental groups, unions, churches and community activists to reform the outdated Mining Act to allow communities to say ‘no' to mining. The support culminated in a rally at Queen's Park on May 26, followed by a four-day "sovereignty sleep-over" at the legislature.
On May 28, an appeal of our sentences was heard by the Ontario Court of Appeal. The Court ordered the immediate release of Bob Lovelace and the KI Six, but did not release the reasons for their decision until today.
In today's ruling the Court of Appeal said that the outdated Mining Act "lies at the heart of this case".
The Court called the Act "a remarkably sweeping law" which allows prospectors to stake claims on any Crown land, and which allows no role for communities in deciding whether mineral exploration occurs in their territories, even when they have unsettled land claims to those areas.
The Court noted that both KI and Ardoch had consistently asked the government of Ontario to engage in direct negotiations with them to resolve these disputes rather than supporting the mining companies'
efforts to obtain injunctions and then have community leaders jailed for refusing to obey the injunctions. The Court said:
"Where a requested injunction is intended to create ‘a protest-free zone' for contentious private activity that affects asserted aboriginal or treaty rights, the court must be very careful to ensure that, in the context of the dispute before it, the Crown has fully and faithfully discharged its duty to consult with the affected First Nations. The court must further be satisfied that every effort has been exhausted to obtain a negotiated or legislated solution to the dispute before it. Good faith on both sides is required in this process"
Said Bob Lovelace, "We feel fully vindicated in the position we have taken and remain committed to our position that there will be no mineral exploration within the territories of KI or Ardoch without our consent. Our laws, which require respect for the land, are entitled to at least as much respect as Ontario's Mining Act. We remain open to dialogue, but Ontario has never responded to our proposals for negotiations. We want negotiations, not conflict, but we will enforce our laws and protect our land."
KI Spokesperson Sam McKay added: "The decision of the Court of Appeal proves that we went to jail because of the stubborn refusal of the provincial government to respect our laws and our perspective on development within our territories. The Premier of Ontario owes an apology to the people of KI and Ardoch, especially to those of us who were jailed for opposing an outdated and immoral law. A sincere apology would begin a process of healing and reconciliation."
Background Legal Issues
To encourage mining and exploration, Ontario's Mining Act is based on a "free entry" system, which means that all Crown lands, including those subject to Aboriginal title claims, are open for staking, exploration and mining without any consultation or permitting required. Anyone with a prospector's license may stake claims and prospect for minerals on any Crown land.Once a claim has been staked the Mining Recorder "shall" record the claims. There is no opportunity or requirement for consultations with affected First Nation communities. Once a claim is recorded, the prospector can conduct exploratory drilling without any more permits being required.
It is also important to realize that in the 2004 Haida case, the Supreme Court made it clear that First Nations which have asserted rights claims or land claims, but have not yet proven their claims, must be consulted and accommodated, but they cannot "veto" development on disputed land. Consultations and accommodation can include measures to mitigate the impacts of the project and provide some compensation for the affected communities, but they must lead towards implementation of the project.
The only way to achieve what KI and Ardoch believe is a fair and just solution is through negotiations to withdraw sensitive lands from mineral staking and mining.
Sam McKay, Spokesperson, KI (807) 537-2263
Robert Lovelace, Ardoch FN (613) 532-2166
Chris Reid, Legal Counsel for KI and Ardoch: (416) 629-3117
Key players open talks into mining controversy
Frank Armstrong, Whig-Standard
6th July 2008
A group of Algonquins that has been protesting uranium exploration north of Sharbot Lake spent yesterday with provincial government and mining company officials trying to hammer out a solution to the nearly year-long controversy.
The Shabot Obaadjiwan, the province, and Frontenac Ventures Corp. last month began working on a framework to discuss concerns and possible solutions, but they are now holding regular meetings, said Lynn Daniluk, a spokeswoman for the Community Coalition Against Mining Uranium.
"They are probably meeting three or four times a week for the next while," said Daniluk, who often works as a liaison for First Nation people.
Members of the Shabot Obaadjiwan couldn't be reached yesterday. In a release, they said the consultations involve sharing information, talking about potential impacts of uranium exploration and the development of a plan to create a co-operative strategy.
Concerns include health, safety and environmental issues, as well as aboriginal values, the release said.
The Shabot Obaadjiwan are one of two groups of Algonquins who have been protesting the proposed uranium mine north of Sharbot Lake. More than one year ago, they joined the Ardoch Algonquin First Nation in preventing Oakville-based Frontenac Ventures from entering the site.
The Ardoch Algonquins are not involved in the ongoing consultations. That's because they haven't been recognized by the federal government as a legitimate First Nation group, Daniluk said.
"It's my understanding the Shabot Obaadjiwan have no say whether the Ardoch Algonquins are involved in the negotiations," she said.
Representatives of the Ardoch Algonquins couldn't be reached for comment yesterday.
Uranium from Iraq reaches Canada
Associated Press, LA Times
6th July 2008
MONTREAL -- The last major remnant of Saddam Hussein's nuclear program -- a huge stockpile of concentrated natural uranium -- reached this Canadian port Saturday, completing a secret U.S. operation that included an airlift from Baghdad and a voyage across two oceans.
The removal of about 550 tons of "yellowcake" -- the seed material for high-grade nuclear enrichment -- was a significant step toward closing the books on Hussein's nuclear legacy. It also brought relief to U.S. and Iraqi authorities who had worried that the cache would fall into the hands of insurgents or Shiites hoping to advance Iran's alleged nuclear ambitions.
What's left is the final and complicated push to clean up the remaining radioactive debris at the former Tuwaitha nuclear complex, about 12 miles south of Baghdad, using teams that include Iraqis recently trained in the Chernobyl fallout zone in Ukraine.
"Everyone is very happy to have this safely out of Iraq," said a senior U.S. official who outlined the nearly three-month operation. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject.
Yellowcake alone is not considered potent enough for a "dirty bomb" -- a conventional explosive used to disperse radioactive material -- but it could cause widespread panic if incorporated in a blast. Yellowcake also can be enriched for use in reactors and, at higher levels, weapons.
The Iraqi government sold the yellowcake to a Canadian uranium producer, Cameco Corp.
A Cameco spokesman, Lyle Krahn, said the yellowcake would be processed at facilities in Ontario for use in nuclear power plants.
The deal culminated more than a year of diplomatic and military initiatives, kept hushed in fear of ambushes or attacks once the convoys were underway: first carrying 3,500 barrels by road to Baghdad, then on 37 military flights to the Indian Ocean atoll of Diego Garcia and finally aboard a U.S.-flagged ship for a 8,500-mile trip to Montreal.
Tuwaitha and an adjacent research facility were well known for decades as the centerpiece of Hussein's nuclear efforts. U.N. inspectors had documented and safeguarded the yellowcake, which had been stored in aging drums and containers since before the 1991 Persian Gulf War. There was no evidence of any yellowcake dating from after 1991, the senior U.S. official said.
U.S.-led crews transferred the yellowcake to secure barrels for the shipment.
Who got the shaft?
Mining Opponents say government uranium regulations don't go far enough
Megan O'Toole, Telegraph-Journal
5th July 2008
FREDERICTON - Critics blasted a new set of provincial regulations on uranium exploration and claim-staking that were unveiled on Friday, saying they will not go far enough to protect New Brunswickers.
The regulations, announced by Natural Resources Minister Donald Arseneault and Environment Minister Roland Haché, prohibit uranium exploration in designated watersheds and well fields, as well as in villages, towns and cities.
In addition, all claim-staking has been suspended for several months until an electronic map-staking system can be implemented. That system will replace the traditional ground-staking system, through which prospectors marked regions with blue ribbons.
The regulations also require a 300-metre buffer around residential and institutional buildings, in which no uranium exploration or development can occur.
"They don't get it," said David Coon, policy director of the Conservation Council of New Brunswick, renewing the call for a ban on uranium mining.
"New Brunswickers don't want to have uranium mined on their properties, period. They want it left in the ground because of its toxicity and the hazards associated with taking it out of the ground."
Coon said it was positive, however, that the environment minister moved to close a loophole in the Clean Water Act by banning mining in designated watersheds.
The Opposition seized the opportunity to blast the government.
The move to an electronic staking system does little more than create an illusion, said Carl Urquhart, the Tory MLA for York.
"It's not the little blue ribbons that we don't want; we don't want any uranium mining on our property," he said, noting the 300-metre buffer is insignificant.
"By coming out and saying we're eliminating the flags, you've just buried the problem."
Arseneault said the changes were a response to public concerns.
"After receiving their comments and holding public discussions on the issue, it was clear that New Brunswickers wanted action," he said.
The government also plans to review the Mining Act and devise "a more balanced approach" that respects landowners' rights while also fostering a healthy mining industry, he added.
"We will look at ways to give the Act more teeth when it comes to making sure regulations imposed on mining companies are followed to the letter," Arseneault said.
Gov't changes mining rules
Critics say limits on exploration don't go far enough
Mary Moszynski, Times & Transcript
5th July 2008
FREDERICTON - New rules prohibiting uranium exploration in municipalities and watersheds are an improvement but fall short of the ultimate goal of banning the activity completely, say residents concerned with how the regulations will be enforced.
Following months of debate and protests from residents angry over the recent flurry of uranium exploration, the provincial government announced new rules restricting where mining companies can work.
Uranium exploration is now banned in all municipalities, watersheds and near private wells. As well, government has announced a buffer zone of 300 metres around any residences or institutional building where companies will not be able to stake claims.
About five per cent of existing uranium exploration and drilling is taking place within municipalities. There are about 38,000 uranium claims in the province -- three times as many as in 2005.
The new rules are retroactive and any uranium exploration taking place in banned areas will not be allowed to continue, said Natural Resources Minister Donald Arseneault.
"It's not a complete moratorium on mining activity. We are looking at the areas where there were concerns that came out very clearly from the public, including drinking water supplies and property rights," he said.
As well, all staking activity, regardless of the mineral, is suspended while the province develops a new electronic map-staking system.
Although government says the new system will address homeowners' concerns over strangers trampling through their land to stake a claim, critics say moving towards an online program simply hides the issue.
"All that does is out of sight, out of mind. People won't know until they get notified," said Yvonne Devine of the southeastern chapter of the Conservation Council of New Brunswick.
"They're a long way from what people would really want, but it's a start," she said.
Devine said the regulations are a "good effort" and welcomed a complete ban in watersheds.
"As long as they can ensure that that happens," she said. "With one guy working for the department in charge of monitoring, it's going to be hard to make that happen."
It will take about a year for the new system to be up-and-running but a temporary program will be implemented within a few months, said Arseneault.
The minister acknowledged there have been concerns from residents who weren't notified that their land had been staked, despite regulations requiring companies to contact all landowners.
"The prospector does not actually go on the land so that is a concern that has been raised on numerous occasions over the last several months," said Arseneault of the new system.
Arseneault said government will also review the Mining Act to determine whether other changes are necessary to create a better "balance" between landowners and industry, as well as give the legislation "more teeth when it comes to making sure regulations imposed on mining companies are followed to the letter."
The ban on exploration in sources of drinking water will likely be a relief for many Metro Monctonians concerned about recent activity in the Turtle Creek Watershed.
Moncton City Council has passed a resolution urging the province to ban uranium exploration and mining.
"I think they're positive, from my standpoint, particularly in respect to watershed protection," said Moncton Mayor George LeBlanc in reference to the new regulations.
LeBlanc said he would have liked to have seen a buffer zone created around watersheds to prevent any activity on land near sources of drinking water.
However, he said the ban on exploration in municipalities and the 300-metre buffer zone around buildings will likely address a number of the concerns.
"It would give me some sense of security that certainly wasn't there before."
Susan Linkletter, project coordinator for the Petitcodiac Watershed Alliance, said the new regulations are an improvement but won't address all of the concerns.
"I think the changes to the regulations are there to address people's fears. I don't think it really changes anything that's happening right now. People can still go in without a permit as long as they can do it without being seen."
The Opposition Conservatives are among more than 30 groups calling for a complete ban on uranium activity in the province.
The debate over the safety of uranium exploration and mining caused uproar over the past couple of months and was highlighted during two public sessions hosted by the provincial government where crowds heckled presenters.
Mining companies spent about $32 million in the province last year on mineral exploration. The provincial government has turned to minerals as a source of revenue as it received nearly $126 million in mineral taxes last year.
"These are successes that are truly worth celebrating," said Arseneault. "But as in any industry, the health and safety of New Brunswickers must also be paramount."
David Plante of the New Brunswick Mining Association said industry will accept the changes.
"We do recognize that there is a great deal of anxiety out there surrounding this uranium issue, and unfortunately it's not necessarily based on sound science, but the concerns are legitimate," he said. "What we see here today is a step by government to address these concerns."
Plante said it's crucial that the online staking system is available as quickly as possible in order for companies to take advantage of the current interest in uranium.
Kent South conservative MLA Claude Williams said the new regulations miss the point as they don't ban uranium mining within the province.
"The message from New Brunswickers has been very clear and government just didn't listen," he said.
"The exploration is still going to continue, so that's not going to change."
Williams said the buffer zone of 300 metres isn't enough.
"Still, activity is happening in your backyard."
N.B. establishes strict uranium exploration rules
4th July 2008
New government regulations in New Brunswick will limit uranium exploration and staking of claims.
The province announced on Friday that exploration is now banned in municipalities, watersheds and well fields. Claims will also not be allowed to be staked within 300 metres of private homes.
The new regulations are retroactive and exploration in previously made claims in areas that are now banned will not be able to continue.
Exploration on Crown lands and land privately owned by companies will be allowed to continue.
The announcement comes after months of controversy about whether uranium exploration and mining posed a threat to the province's environment and watersheds.
The number of staked claims for uranium in New Brunswick has more than tripled in the last three years, resulting in many property owners surprised to find stakes or flags on their land.
Exploration for uranium is occurring south and west of Moncton, and smaller companies are also looking for other deposits in the province.
Two heated public meetings were held in June where residents protested the exploration of uranium in the province and called on the province to do more to protect their health and properties.
"It was clear from the recent public meetings that something had to be done to protect not only homeowners' rights but also to increase the level of protection to New Brunswickers' drinking water supplies," said Environment Minister Roland Haché.
The government will also be suspending all mineral claims-staking in the province while it develops a new electronic map staking system.
Opposition critic Carl Urquhart says the changes do nothing to help rural New Brunswickers and will allow the mining companies to be covert as they stake their claims.
The opposition has called for a moratorium on uranium exploration and mining in the province, while environmental groups and Moncton's city council have called for a ban. There is concern that uranium mining could affect watersheds and that its long-term impacts would outweigh any short-term economic gain.