(October 18, 1996) The Joint Federal-Provincial Review Panel on Uranium Mining Developments in Northern Saskatchewan is in serious trouble. The panel was established in 1991 to review the impact of the proposed uranium mining projects of Midwest, Dominique-Janine Extension for Cluff Lake, McClean Lake, McArthur River, and Cigar Lake.
(460.4567) WISE Uranium/Amsterdam Two of the five panel members have quit in the last few weeks: - Dr. Annalee Yassi, occupational and environmental health professor at the University of Manitoba, who resigned on August 15. As early as April this year, she had shared her concerns in adocument prepared for other panel members. Complaining about theinformation policy of the mining company, she said: "The panelnotes that the information necessary to assess the benefits of this project has not been forthcoming. As noted in the submissions, someof the information requested by the panel was dismissed by the proponent; words such as 'cavalier' were used to characterize the response." She elaborated on the socio-economic impact on northern Saskatchewan communities, on revenue-sharing, on the economic viability of the Midwest project, and on health concerns. She then concluded: "If it is essential, or even highly desirable,for additional information to be sought a second time beforeproceeding to public hearings, this should, and must, be done.
- John Dantouze, vice-chief with the Prince Albert Grand Council, and only aboriginal member of the panel, resigned on October 1. In a press release on that day, Dantouze briefly outlined his reasons:
- " The moral obligation to the people of Saskatchewan that I assumed in accepting my appointment to the panel cannot be met because the panel review process has been undermined and is not respected by the governments that created it.
- Inadequacy of pertinent information regarding uranium mining development proposals.
- Disregard for the joint federal/provincial panel recommendations in the first environmental review process of the Dominique-Janine extension, the Midwest Joint Venture and the McClean Lake mine.
- Saskatchewan northerners are not the primary beneficiaries of uranium development, nor will the current panel process contribute to the achievement of this objective."
Moreover, several concerned parties withdrew from the review process during the last weeks:
- The Inter-Church Uranium Committee (ICUC), a major objector to the proposed mining projects, withdrew from the participation in the review process.
The mayors of four northern communities in Saskatchewan announced on October 1, 1996, that they would not allow the scheduled public hearings to be held in their communities. "As the elected leaders of more than 85% of the residents of the primary impact area, we can no longer participate in processes which are either ineffective in or hostile to the protection and enhancement of our rights and interest," the three chiefs of the Athabasca Denesuline First Nations had written in a September 9letter to Premier Roy Romanov and Mr. Don Lee, chairperson of the panel, advising them that the panel hearings scheduled for their communities had been cancelled. As reasons for their protest, they cited the following:
- "None of the current federal and provincial authorities whose approval is required for uranium mining development recognizes or requires the approval of the Denesuline First Nations of the primary impact area. This is our traditional homeland. Our treaty and aboriginal rights within this territory are recognized within the Canadian Constitution and must translate into effective decision-making in the uranium mining development approval process.
- The joint panel, in its review of earlier mining projects, recommended "greater community involvement in the monitoring program" (Rabbit Lake extensions). The current advisory role that our First Nation representatives play are inadequate, both in terms of having an independent technical capacity to monitor and authority to correct non-compliance.
- The joint panel in reviewing the Dominique-Janine extension (Cluff Lake) recommended that 50% of new employees be from the primary impact area and an additional 30% from other northern areas. Its recommendation with respect to the McClean Lake project was the same, i.e., 80% of the employment should be targeted for northerners. The federal and provincial governments and the mining companies have ignored these targets and continue to operate at a 1998 target of 60% of the labor force being northerners and no specific employment target for Athabasca residents. The current Athabasca participation in the operating mines is approximately 11%; the total northern participation rate is approximately 50% out of 1,550 permanent jobs. In addition, there has been no significant improvement in employee and race relations at the mine sites and the minimal opportunities for Athabasca business development in mine contracts are unacceptable.
- In December 1993, the joint panel stated, "The panel recommends the establishment of an agreement on a form of revenue-sharing that is acceptable to the majority of impacted communities." In response, the Canadian government stated that it "encourages the Province of Saskatchewan to carefully consider this proposal". Unfortunately, the province has rejected any consideration of revenue-sharing and instead continuosly refers to its "Northern Revenue Sharing Trust Account" to which First Nations are not eligible. None of the approximately Can$120 million (U.S.$88 million) contributed to this trust account has been received by First Nations."
With these resignations, the review process on the large-scale uranium mining projects in northern Saskatchewan (with the participation of French and German mining companies), is imperilled.
- WISE-Uranium, E-mail Peter Diehl, 6 October 1996
- Press release John Dantouza, 1 October 1996
- Letter to Panel Members by Dr. Annalee Yassi, April 1996
Contact: Inter-Church Uranium Committee, PO Box 7724, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, S4P 2P4, Canada