Leave uranium in the ground:
Citizens want complete ban
UPdate Fall 2008
A rise in the price of uranium has sparked new efforts to develop uranium
mines in both Nova Scotia and New Brunswick over the last year. Uranium developers,
like wolves in green clothing, are claiming that uranium mining is good for
the environment. They also claim that nuclear energy is clean energy. But Atlantic
Canadians are not behaving like sheep in response.
The City of Moncton and the Municipalities of Chester and Bridgewater have
all called for a complete, permanent ban on uranium exploration and mining.
So have hundreds of Nova Scotians, including prominent heath organizations
and environmental groups.
On the other hand, some provincial politicians may be easily misled. Last spring,
Nova Scotia Environment Minister Mark Parent told the legislature that "this
government has an open mind" on the prospect of future uranium prospecting.
Premier Rodney MacDonald stated that uranium mining and nuclear power could
be among the options Nova Scotia adopts to cut carbon emissions. It looked
like Nova Scotia’s uranium moratorium could be on shaky grounds.
At the same time, Tripple Uranium stepped up explorations in the Millet Brook
area. Millet Brook, between Chester and Windsor, was the site of explorations
by Kidd Creek Uranium in the 1980’s, before a moratorium on uranium exploration
and mining was put in place. The area has been proven to have levels of uranium
two to twenty times higher than the NS limit for exploration. Nova Scotia’s
moratorium now forbids a company from drilling if samples show more than 100
parts per million of uranium. Tripple Uranium’s response to questions
was that they are only looking for gold and base minerals, although the areas
where they are exploring are known to have high potential for uranium. Tripple
Uranium has 7,207 claims covering 115, 312 hectares of land in Nova Scotia,
including areas near Wentworth and Annapolis.
As yet, the Nova Scotia Government has taken no steps to either strengthen
or weaken the existing moratorium on uranium mining. The moratorium was adopted
in 1985 after the McCleave inquiry into immediate and long-term dangers of
uranium mining. The NS moratorium remains an “order in council”,
not a law, which means it can be lifted by the government of the day at any
time, without discussion or debate in the legislature
In New Brunswick, Moncton residents found out in the fall of 2007 that the
New Brunswick government had given CVRD-Inco the right to prospect for uranium
on about 133,000 hectares of land in southeastern New Brunswick. The area included
the Turtle Creek watershed, which provides drinking water for Moncton. Inco
is currently facing Canada’s largest environmental class action lawsuit
for contamination related to its refinery in Port Colborne, Ontario. In 2005,
the Globe and Mail gave Inco a failing grade for corporate social and environmental
Further investigation revealed that exploration for uranium was also being
carried out within municipal boundaries in New Brunswick. Moncton is not the
only area affected – there are 38,000 claims for uranium throughout New
In spite of an outpouring of opposition to uranium mining, the New Brunswick
government defeated a motion to ban uranium mining in the province. Instead,
the reigning Liberals adopted partial restrictions, which fall far short of
protecting people and the environment from the radioactive hazards of uranium
mining. The new laws forbid uranium mining within municipal boundaries, watersheds
and near private wells. As well, the law enacts a buffer zone of 300 metres
around any residences or institutional building where companies will not be
able to stake claims.
The Conservation Council of New Brunswick says the government’s new laws
are “missing the point.” Inka Milewski, Science Advisor for the
Conservation Council says, “In light of long-term radiological dangers
from drill cores, trenching and bulk sampling, we want a ban on uranium exploring
in New Brunswick,” Milewski also points out that “the public would
be surprised to learn that quarries and exploration do not require Environmental
Impact Assessments in this province.”
While Nova Scotia politicians dither, and New Brunswick politicians hope that
partial measures will calm opposition, British Columbia’s government
took decisive action and adopted an all-out ban on uranium. In May 2008. British
Columbia became the first province in Canada to completely ban exploration
for uranium as well as thorium, another radioactive mineral. The law also outlaws
development of known deposits of the minerals, and imposes a "no registration
reserve" to ensure no future mineral claims include rights to these minerals.
BC also restated its commitment not to develop nuclear energy.
Ninety-five (95) percent of uranium is used for two purposes -- nuclear energy
and nuclear weapons.
UPdate, Fall 2008, Environmental Health Association of
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