The Federal Court of Canada, Trial Division, has revoked the operating licence of the McClean Lake uranium mine and mill located 700 km north of Saskatoon, Sask. It is owned 70% and operated by Cogema Resources, 22.5% by Denison Energy and 7.5% by OURD (Canada) Co. Mining began at the JEB pit in October 1995, and the mill began producing in June 1999. The mill has a capacity of 8 million lb U3O8 yearly.
The loss of the licence follows a suit brought by the Inter-Church Uranium Committee Educational Co-operative (ICUCEC) against the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) and Cogema. The ICUCEC opposes uranium development in Saskatchewan on a number of grounds including environmental, the industry’s connection to nuclear weapons, the displacement of aboriginal peoples, and energy alternatives. In its suit, the ICUCEC argued that the CNSC (formerly known as the Atomic Energy Control Board) did not have jurisdiction to issue an operating licence without a new round of environmental assessment applications and hearings based on the 1995 Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, which came into force after the original licensing process was well underway. Cogema and the CNSC argued that its application should be grandfathered under earlier legislation and, therefore, no new assessment was needed. They are appealing the decision to the Federal Court of Appeal.
Neither Denison nor Cogema can predict the full effect of losing the licence. It is possible that McClean Lake will be shut down pending a stay of the lower court decision while the appeal is prepared. Should the mine and mill be idled, customer demand can be met from inventory until the end of 2002. A longer shutdown would undoubtedly adversely impact the companies’ financial results.
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