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CANADIAN MINING PERSPECTIVES: Labrador Inuit declare uranium moratorium

The Canadian uranium industry is coming under fire on yet another front. The Nunatsiavut government voted to impose...


The Canadian uranium industry is coming under fire on yet another front. The Nunatsiavut government voted to impose a three-year moratorium on uranium mining in Labrador Inuit lands beginning March 31, 2008.

The moratorium applies only to lands covered by a Labrador Inuit land claims agreement, not the whole of the province.

Inuit are concerned about the negative environmental and public health effects associated with uranium mining, said Lands and Resources Minister William Barbour, adding that a moratorium will give the Nunatsiavut government more time to make informed decisions on the mining and milling of uranium within Labrador Inuit lands.

The NUNATSIAVUT GOVERNMENT is a regional ethic body created in December 2005 (www.Nunatsiavut.com). It has not said an irrevocable No to the uranium industry, but it does want time to gain the tools needed to make informed decisions on the environmental impact of uranium mining on Inuit lands. “During the next three years we will place focus on establishing a lands administration system, developing an environmental assessment act and environmental protection legislation. We will also develop a land use plan for the Labrador Inuit Settlement Area,” promised Barbour.

The moratorium does not apply to uranium exploration, which is a concession to the many companies seeking that metal along the Central Mineral Belt in coastal Labrador. One of the more promising projects, the Michelin and Jacques Lake discoveries, belongs to AURORA ENERGY RESOURCES (www.Aurora-Energy.ca) of Vancouver.

“The Nunatsiavut government has indicated that it is supportive of natural resource development and open to evaluating ongoing project information, but needs additional time to prepare for significant developments like the Michelin project,” said Dr. Mark O’Dea, Aurora’s president and CEO. “Currently there is no uranium mining on Labrador Inuit lands and there are no plans for uranium mining operations for the next three years.”

Meanwhile, Aurora will continue its infill drilling program at Michelin and Jacques Lake while it prepares a pre-feasibility study for the Michelin project.

This is not the first time a government in North America has put the brakes on the uranium industry.

The government of British Columbia enacted a complete moratorium, including exploration, from 1980 to 1987. Even today any exploration, development or mining operation that encounters a grade of 0.01% U by weight must cease all activity immediately and report the discovery to the chief mines inspector.

Nova Scotia banned uranium mining in that province in 1982; the ban remains in force today. Uranium mining in the U.S. state of Virginia was also banned in 1982. Today, opponents of the industry are calling for bans in many parts of the world, including all Canadian provinces and territories.

Today’s high uranium price, US$71/lb U3O8, is down considerably from its US$138 peak reached in June 2007. Nonetheless, the metal is a very desirable commodity. The price remains strong against historical averages, and demand is solid because nuclear energy is being promoted as a “green” method of producing electricity.

Opposition and fear of uranium mining is not going to disappear. Nor is there a single solution appropriate for all lands. There must be compromise between land owners and holders of mineral rights. The answer doesn’t have to be all-or-nothing.

I want to hear discussion based on facts, not rhetoric based on emotion.


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