(January 23, 1998) Send notes of protest to the Government of Saskatchewan, Canada, in regard to the approval of new uranium mines in Northern Saskatchewan before February 5, 1998 urging for a halt to any new uranium mining activities, and especially for a halt to the last two projects under review, Cigar Lake uranium project and Midwest Joint Venture.
(485.4810) WISE Uranium - Canada is the largest uranium producing and exporting country; uranium is mined in the Athabasca Basin in the northern part of the province of Saskatchewan. Since 1993, six uranium- mining projects including twelve underground and open-pit mines, mills and tailings disposal facilities have been reviewed by the Uranium Mine Development and Review Panel, a federal-provincial environmental assessment panel.
Government ignores recommendations
Although the Panel repeatedly recommended serious conditions and, in one case, a postponement of the uranium mining projects, the government of Saskatchewan approved the projects, widely ignoring or watering down the Panel's recommendations. The "green light" was given to the mining companies, among them CAMECO, the world's largest uranium mining company, French state-owned COGEMA which is providing uranium for the French nuclear weapons program, German-based URANERZ as well as US, British, and Japanese involvement.
Uranium mining in Northern Saskatchewan takes place in an area traditionally owned and used by First Nations peoples, mainly Dene and Cree people. Since the start of uranium mining in the 1950s, First Nations people have repeatedly voiced their concerns about and opposition to the mining activities. For more than 40 years, First Nations people experienced the dismissal of their concerns by the governments of Saskatchewan and Canada. They were left with a horrifying experience of powerlessness towards governments and a uranium industry that obviously could not be stopped. Uranium mining split communities, and subtle repression followed resistance and a roadblock of a uranium mine road at Wollaston Lake in 1985.
Two panel members resign
Two of the members of the Panel, Prof. Annalee Yassi, an epidemiologist from the University of Manitoba, Faculty of Medicine, Community Health Sciences, and John Dantouze, Vice-Chief of the Prince Albert Grand Council, the only indigenous person on the Panel, had resigned last year.
Vice-Chief John Dantouze's concerns about the Hearings process were dismissed by the Panel Chairperson as a "conflict of interest". Vice-Chief John Dantouze responded: "... the fundamental problem ... is ... the pressure from Federal and Provincial governments and the mining industry to proceed prematurely with decisions in their favour."
Subsequently, in an unprecedented step, Native American people's reserves and communities of Northern Saskatchewan made their distrust and frustration with the Review Panel process known to the public and disinvited the Panel from their communities in fall 1996.
(For more details also see WISE News Communique 460.4567, Oct 18, 1996: 'Canada: Uranium mining review panel is in trouble')
Churches throughout Saskatchewan had consistently questioned uranium mining and voiced their concerns; among other things, they had founded the Inter Church Uranium Committee (ICUC) to monitor uranium mining and its effects.
"The Bishops of Saskatchewan would like to add our voices to the growing number of people who wish to see a review process which is thorough, representative and credible ..." (signed by nine bishops of the churches of Sasktachewan) (Letter of the Bishops to Premier Romanow, Nov. 7, 1996)
The Inter Church Uranium Committee had pulled out of the Review Panel Hearings earlier in 1996 stating basicly that ICUC felt the whole process was a farce. Nevertheless, the Review Panel went on reviewing the last two mining projects, Cigar Lake and Midwest Joint Venture.
"Ok" for mines is not ok
In November 1997, the Panel published the recommendations for the last two uranium mining projects under review, Cigar Lake and Midwest Joint Venture. The Panel voices a series of concerns and conditions.
In regard to Cigar Lake tailings management the Panel states: "However, there are critical site-specific technical and managerial concerns that must be resolved before the particular tailings management facility ("TMF") can be recommended. Chief among the technical concerns is the need for convincing evidence that operation of the TMF would not result in the contamination of Fox Lake in the long run.
This concern is exacerbated by a lack of confidence in the managerial and scientific competence of the operator, COGEMA.
In addition, the obvious dismissive attitude of this company for the regulators and their concerns suggests that it would not be appropriate for COGEMA, as currently managed, to be given responsibility for constructing and managing this very dangerous radioactive waste disposal facility." (Panel Report summary on Cigar Lake, Nov. 14, 1997)
Given these concerns, the Panel fails completely to show consistently how it arrives at a recommendation to approve Cigar Lake as well as Midwest uranium project in spite of these serious concerns. The recommendation of the Panel is highly inconsistent.
Unfortunately, the concerns of Prof. Annalee Yassi as well as Vice-Chief John Dantouze in regard to the Panel being pressured by the Governments and the uranium industry and having to follow a political and industrial agenda prove to be more than valid.
The Government of Saskatchewan will announce its decision on the mining projects after February 5, 1998 (according to Canadian law, the Panel recommendations are not binding).
- Voice your concerns about uranium mining in general, about the governments' failure to implement the Panel's recommendations in the past, to address First Nations peoples' concerns.
- Urge the Government of Saskatchewan to put a halt to any further uranium developments in Northern Saskatchewan !!
Voice your concerns about the credibilty of the Review Panel process in view of the resignment of two of the five members:
- Prof. Yassi, the only health care professional on the Panel as well as the only woman on the Panel,
- Vice-Chief John Dantouze, the only indigenous person on the Panel, although traditional indigenous areas are the primary impact areas of the uranium mining activities
- Voice your concerns about COGEMA, as stated in the Panel report, and ask for a "NO" to Cigar Lake in the light of these serious concerns
- Request a halt to any further uranium mining activities until all reservations and conditions recommended by the Panel are fulfilled.
- Voice your support for First Nations' requests and concerns in regard to uranium mining and ask for a halt to hasty, remature decisions in favour of the uranium industry before outstanding issues between the Dene First Nations and the Governments of Saskatchewan and Canada are resolved.
Send your letters and faxes to:
Hon. Roy Romanow, Q.C., Room 226, Legislative Building, Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada S4S 0B3. Tel: +1-306-787-0958; Fax: +1-306-787-0885
Please send copies of your protest letters, statements etc. to: Gunter Wippel or to Peter Diehl:
Source and Contact: Transnational Working Group on Uranium and Nuclear Waste. c/o Gunter Wippel, P.O. Box 5102, 79018 Freiburg, Germany. Tel: +49-761-4760515; Fax c/o: +49-761-475919 or, check the web site of WISE Uranium Project at http://www.wise-uranium.org