Quebec Environment Minister Daniel Breton has announced that he will ask the public hearings office called Bureau d’audiences publiques sur l’environnement (BAPE) to examine the impacts of the uranium mining industry, effectively halting mining company Strateco’s exploration activities in the Otish Mountains, north of Chibougamau.
Breton’s October 15, 2012 announcement came just days before the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission’s (CNSC’s) license approval for Strateco Resources’ exploration.
Following the announcement, a number of health and environmental organizations applauded Breton’s decision through statements to media.
“…This industry spews enormous quantities of toxic and radioactive wastes into the environment (80-85 per cent of the initial ore mass),” wrote Physicians for Global Survival (Canada). “Some of these substances have half-lives of thousands of years. Others, such as radon gas, can travel far from the mine site and contaminate the environment. The risk of air, land, groundwater and surface water contamination is quite significant.”
Quebec Premier Pauline Marois qualified her position on uranium mining during the recent 2012 election campaign. She indicated that any exploration of the nuclear technology component could be considered under certain conditions.
Some Canadian provinces and U.S. states, such as British Columbia, Nova Scotia and Virginia, have declared a moratorium on uranium exploration.
Physicians for Global Survival (Canada) warn that uranium can cause kidney and bone disease, with toxic effects on the neurological level and embryonic liver.
“Uranium causes bone and kidney pathologies and is toxic to the neurological system, liver and embryo,” the group wrote. “And other dangerous substances are also found in wastes: radium and strontium, which cause bone cancers; radon and polonium, which cause lung cancers. It should be stressed that there is no safe limit for radiation: any exposure to radiation is a health risk. Also remember that these wastes release several other very toxic substances into our environment: heavy metals, sulphur oxides, etc.”
Following the CNSC’s October 17, 2012 approval of the Strateco Resources project, the Cree Nation of Mistissini has continued to be a vocal opponent of mining the area. The Nation points out that Strateco's uranium project is located in the Otish Mountains drainage basin, which drains into Mistassini Lake, the largest freshwater lake in Quebec. This region is also the source of six main rivers.
On the same day of the CNSC approval, Mistissini Chief Richard Shecapio released the following statement:
"The Cree Nation of Mistissini feels strongly that if this project goes ahead, other uranium exploration and mining development projects will follow and these projects would permanently alter our traditional way of life and put my people at risk and the Quebec population,” Shecapio said. “We are looking at the bigger picture here; the CNSC is trying to make us look at only an exploration ramp, when we are really talking about opening our doors to uranium development in Eeyou-Istchee and the entire province.”
--------This article orginally appeared on Ecolog.com for October 29, 2012-------