(November 5, 1993) The first of two Canadian environmental assessment review panels examining the expansion of the uranium industry in northern Saskatchewan released its final report on 29 October.
(400/1.3895) WISE Amsterdam - The three projects reviewed by the joint Federal-Provincial panel are McClean Lake, Midwest Joint Venture, and the Dominique-Jamne extension at the Cluff Lake mine. Of the three, only the Cluff Lake extension was approved subject to the implementation of sixteen conditions. The report is a major victory for anti-nuclear groups in Saskatchewan, Canada and around the world. This panel's mandate also includes reviewing the Cigar Lake and McArthur River developments, but the Environmental Impact Statements for these proposals have not been completed.
Although the final report has been issued, pressure must still be applied to the federal and provincial governments to accept the recommendations in the report. According to the environmental assessment laws in Canada, panel recommendations are not legally binding, and therefore the province and/or the federal government have the power to reject the report. Letters urging both levels of government to accept this report are now needed.
This is a crucial time for the New Democratic Party (NDP) which currently holds power in Saskatchewan.
At its provincial convention in November of 1992, the party reversed its phaseout policy of nine years to adopt one of accepting the recommendations made by the review panel. The province will not make its decision until after 29 November to allow time for the public to comment on the report. The uranium issue has historically divided the NDP in Saskatchewan and it will be faced with the wrath of many long standing party members if it does not adhere to last years decision at convention.
The only project approved is the Dominique-Janine extension at Cluff Lake operated by COGEMA, wholly- owned by the French government.
Approval of the project is subject to sixteen conditions, some of which are:
- agreement on a form of revenue sharing that is acceptable to the majority of the impacted communities;
- provision of a financial guarantee to cover decommissioning and post- de-commissioning costs;
- adoption of the exposure standards recommended in Publication 60 of the International Commission on Radiation Protection (ICRP-60) without allowing the collective dose to increase;
- establishment of mechanisms for conducting an epidemiological study of the health of current and former workers at the Cluff Lake mine;
- evaluation of alternative methods of tailings disposal, with the goal of closing down the present tailings management facility as soon as possible.
The panel recommended that the McClean Lake project be delayed for at least five years to allow time to obtain more experience with previous surround tailings management, acquire comprehensive community health in-formation, maximize employment opportunities to the people of northern Saskatchewan through education and training, discuss further the larger issues and assess cumulative biophysical and socio-economic impacts.
|The Inter-Church Uranium Committee would like to express deep gratitude for support and encouragement we have received from the international community. The fight here is not over, but we have taken a big step forward. We look forward to continued connections and further victories!!!|
The Midwest Joint Venture project was deemed unacceptable as described in the Environmental Impact Statement submitted to the panel; the benefits that could be obtained are insufficient to balance the potential risks.
Weapons Connection Made
The issue of France's nuclear weapons testing was raised by many presenters during the public hearings. Although so-called 'end uses" of uranium were not part of the mandate of this review, the panel felt it necessary to comment on this aspect of the industry.
To quote from the report: "Participants noted that specific proponents, such as COGEMA are wholly-owned subsidiaries of foreign governments heavily involved in military weapons research, fabrication and testing. Accordingly, mining proponents are viewed as a direct part of the chain leading to weapons production..."
And further "...no proven method exists for preventing incorporation of Canadian uranium into military applications....current Canadian limitations on end uses of uranium provide no reassurance to the public that Canadian uranium is used solely for non-military applications by purchasers. The panel wishes to bring concerns related to the possible use of Saskatchewan uranium for weapons to the attention the government."
Industry Reaction Swift
Industry officials have reacted swiftly saying this could be the end of uranium mining and exploration in the province. Roland Löwer of the German-owned URANERZ (one of the companies involved in the Midwest Joint Venture) told Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) radio, "The implication is that if some projects do not go ahead the implication for exploration is very serious. If we cannot mine projects or deposits that are already found and ready to be developed, why should we explore for more here in Saskatchewan or in Canada for that matter?"
Tim Meadley of Uranium Saskatchewan (a lobby group for the industry) said the report "may be the beginning of the end" for the industry in the province. Meadley pondered that accepting the recommendations "could make one wonder about future projects". He added, "It could encourage people to go elsewhere to mine uranium."
ACTION NEEDED NOW!
Letters supporting the report must be submitted by 29 November 1993. Write to: Malcolm Ross, Environmental Assessment Branch, Saskatchewan Environment and Resource Management, 3085 Albert Street, Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada S4S OB1.
For a copy of the full report, contact: Uranium Mine Development Review Office, #420-1955 Smith Street, Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada 54P 2N8; tel: + 1-306-780-8251; fax: 306-780-8250.
Copies of letters to federal or provincial government officials should be sent to: the Inter-Church Uranium Committee, Box 7724, Saskatoon, Sask., S7K 4R4 Canada.
- "Uranium Mining Developments in Northern Saskatchewan: Dominique-Janine Extension, Mc-Clean Lake Project, and Midwest Joint Venture" Report of the Joint Federal-Provincial Panel on Uranium Mining Developments in Northern Saskatchewan, Oct. 1993
- Saskatoon Star Phoenix (Can), 30 Oct. 1993, p.1
- CBC Radio News (Can), 29 Oct. 93.
Contact: Stephanie Sydiaha and Phil Penna, Inter-Church Uranium Committee, Box 7724, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada, S7K 4R4; tel: + 1-306-934-3030; fax: 306-652-8377.