Uranium mining and exploration under a temporary moratorium in Quebec
On March 28th, Quebec’s Environment Minister announced a temporary moratorium on the exploration and mining of uranium in the province. He said no permits would be issued until an independent study on the environmental impact and social acceptance of uranium mining is completed.Minister Yves-Francois Blanchet asked Quebec’s bureau of public hearings on the environment, known as the BAPE, to convene meetings across the province to hear from experts and residents on the future of uranium in Quebec.Currently there are about 10 active exploration sites in Quebec and with low uranium prices there is not a big demand for more. Strateco Resources Inc. is the only company seeking an exploration permit for a project in Northern Quebec, but the site is on Cree territory and the James Bay Cree have declared a permanent moratorium on all uranium exploration and extraction.
There is a question of rights here, as the Cree claim their treaty rights guarantee their ability to enforce the moratorium. Bill Namagoose, executive director of the Grand Council of the Crees, objects to the public hearings saying the BAPE has no jurisdiction under the James Bay Northern Quebec Agreement
Strateco Resources says it has invested $120 M Cdn in the project located about 275 kilometres north of Chibougamau. Strateco spokesman, Denis Boucher, was quoted in a Montreal newspaper saying, ‘we are going to look at how we can defend our rights, and we are going to defend them with all the avenues and by all means available to us.”
Quebec society has evolved its thinking on uranium exploration. Over the past 10 years more than 300 communities in the province have passed resolutions calling for a uranium moratorium. In the community of Sept-Iles, the issue became a crisis in 2009 when 20 doctors in the small city threatened to quit their jobs and leave the province if a moratorium was not declared. It appears the time for public consultation has come.
Gordon Edwards, president of the Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility likens the situation to asbestos. In a recent interview with a Montreal newspaper he said, “People have come to the conclusion that there are certain minerals that are so dangerous that they’re not worth mining, they’re better to leave underground. One is asbestos, and one is uranium.”
There is no word yet on when the BAPE hearings will get underway.
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