British Columbia has banned uranium exploration and development in the province – again.
The first such moratorium was enforced from 1980 to 1987, and it was the hot topic at the PDA (Prospectors & Developers Association of Canada before there was a C for Canada) at the time. Delegates then were quick to say that British Columbia was sending a signal that mining was not welcome there. Exploration spending shrank during the ’80s and continued to wither during the ’90s. Although low metal prices did their share of the damage, the ban on uranium exploration arguably got the ball rolling.
Many of us in the mining industry, myself included, do not view uranium exploration and mining as an intrinsically toxic activity. Today’s technology can mitigate or eliminate environmental and health risks. Special precautions must be taken, yes, but they work.
The general public remains unaware of the real risk level. They have lobbied, hollered and misrepresented until the B.C. government has given in and renewed the ban.
I recently read a criticism of the Ontario government’s move to ban pesticide use on residential lawns and abolish the ban in some neighbourhoods on outdoor clothes lines. (Ontario has banned the “cosmetic” use of pesticides on lawns but not golf courses, forests or farms. That means a farmer can spray his fields but not the grass around his house or his vegetable garden.) Writing in the Ottawa Citizen, the author of the criticism considered these laws to be a knee-jerk reaction to public pressure. The point was made that in neither case was the decision based on solid scientific research.
Moreover, British Columbia has established a “no registration reserve” to go along with the uranium exploration. This ensures no future claims that are staked include the rights to uranium (and thorium). The province says its goal is to ensure any potentially economic uranium deposits remain undeveloped. The move is in line with the province’s stated commitment to keep nuclear power generation outside its borders.
There are no uranium mines in British Columbia. Maybe there are no minable uranium deposits. That will always be a big question mark unless prospectors are allowed to seek them.