Environmental activists and First Nations are calling on the Quebec government to ban uranium exploration within the province following a March 11, 2013 mining protest in Quebec City.
Marking the second anniversary of the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan, the protest aimed its message directly at the Quebec government’s decision to hold hearings into Quebec uranium exploration. The protesters are demanding Quebec follow the lead of other provinces — such as British Columbia and Nova Scotia, among others — that banned uranium mining for health, security and environmental reasons.
Uranium is a radioactive metal commonly used in nuclear technology. Canada is the largest uranium producer in the world.
While there are currently no uranium mines operating in Quebec, the protest’s activists are saying mixed signals are being sent to the public and industry. When the province issued a uranium exploration license in October 2012 to Strateco Resources for the Matoush site in the Otish Mountains, it did so without adequate consultation, the protesters claim.
While the Quebec government has been considering the future of uranium exploration, Strateco was busy taking the Quebec government to court in January 2013 in an attempt to allow the company to move forward with its project, and potentially bypass the necessity for local First Nation support.
The Cree Nation of Mistissini in Northern Quebec was one of the First Nations groups represented at the Quebec March 2013 uranium protest.
“As protectors of the largest freshwater lake in Quebec, Lake Mistassini, we strongly oppose any uranium development,” said Mistissini Chief Richard Shecapio in a written statement.
“It goes against our way of life and our beliefs. As opposed to other forms of tailings, such as that from the Stornoway mine also on our territory, waste from this type of mine stays radioactive for thousands of years, and that is socially unacceptable,” Shecapio added.
The uranium protest brings to light the strong municipal backlash against the Quebec government’s decision to hold hearings into uranium mining. Spearheaded by the Mayor of Amqui, Gaëtan Ruest, more than 300 Quebec municipalities have passed a resolution against mining exploration. Ruest has announced that his goal is to reach 500 municipalities.
A recent Léger marketing survey shows that 62 per cent of Quebecers are in favor of a moratorium on uranium mining. This number rises to 78 per cent when considering those in favor of an impact assessment on uranium mining before any project is approved.
The Parti Quebecois government's first move after taking office last September 2012 was to announce the pending closure of the Gentilly-2 nuclear power station.
In February 2013, Quebec’s Natural Resources Minister proposed a regulation that would require mining companies to submit plans for site remediation and cover all site-related cleanup costs.