New Brunswick is mentioned in the second last sentence.
Ottawa rejects call to guide uranium drilling
July 29, 2008
The federal government is rejecting calls to take over the regulation of
uranium exploration despite mounting public concerns about the search for
the radioactive metal, according to documents obtained by The Globe and Mail.
Ottawa currently oversees all uranium project development and mining due to
the dangerous nature of the commodity, which is used to make fuel for
nuclear reactors. But it has left the regulation of uranium exploration to
An internal briefing document prepared for federal Natural Resource
Minister Gary Lunn's office indicates there are no plans to wade into a
growing controversy regarding uranium drilling efforts.
Titled "Uranium Exploration and Mining in Canada and the North Frontenac
Ventures Issue," the briefing memo concerns the uproar about a junior
mining company's attempts to drill for uranium in Eastern Ontario.
The 20-page document, prepared by federal bureaucrats, notes that as the
price of uranium has increased amid rising demand, exploration activities
across Canada have grown dramatically. Some junior companies are now
drilling for uranium in less remote areas, prompting protests from nearby
residents and native groups who have called for a moratorium on uranium
exploration because of environmental concerns.
Under a section titled "Federal Response," the briefing document states
that Ottawa is "monitoring events closely" but emphasizes that "exploration
is a provincial responsibility." The memo also says that "exploration
drilling for uranium should not have a significant environmental impact."
Gordon Edwards, president of the Montreal-based Canadian Coalition for
Nuclear Responsibility, said Ottawa should take over uranium exploration
regulation or at least take a leadership role. "To simply pass the buck and
say, 'We don't want to get involved,' I think, is irresponsible," Mr.
Edwards said in an interview.
The boom in uranium prices has led to a surge in staking and exploration
activities, sometimes in populated areas or near watersheds. "It's absurd.
It's a free-for-all," Mr. Edwards said. "There should be firm guidelines
and I think there should be no permission to explore in built-up areas."
The briefing document was prompted by an exploration program in Ontario's
North Frontenac region by a privately held company, Frontenac Ventures
Corp. The Oakville, Ont.-based company has run into fierce opposition from
local residents and leaders of native communities in the Sharbot Lake area,
about 100 kilometres north of Kingston, who worry that drilling could cause
severe environmental damage and contaminate water.
The company has staked claims to about 12,000 hectares in the area,
including some on residential property.
"A handful of exploration companies are a little short of corporate social
responsibility - little sensitivity and perspective, or understanding of
the need to consult and build support," the briefing memo says.
The memo, dated Jan. 15, 2008, represents the first indication of the
federal position on the Frontenac controversy.
"Many people perceive exploration activities as indicating that a mine will
be developed," says the document, obtained by Ottawa researcher Ken Rubin
under the Access to Information Act.
"This has boiled over into calls for a moratorium in these areas - so far,
this is a provincial matter to sort out - if they get to the development
stage, these companies will have to deal with the CNSC [Canadian Nuclear
Safety Commission] and there will be all kinds of opportunity for public
consultation," the document says.
Frontenac Ventures president and chief executive officer George White said
the federal government assessment of the company's public relations efforts
"I don't know where they are coming from. We've never attended any meetings
with them and never had any dialogue with them. Consequently, I would say
they are off-base," he said in an interview.
With 30 employees in the Sharbot Lake area, the company has spent more than
$4-million on its exploration program so far and is holding consultation
meetings with some native communities.
"Frontenac does not have a duty to consult; that rests squarely with the
federal and provincial governments," Mr. White said.
Currently, uranium is mined only in Saskatchewan. However, the resurgence
of nuclear power as a viable energy source has spurred a rush of
exploration in other provinces and territories. The federal government
estimates some 250 exploration firms will spend $350-million on uranium
exploration this year.
In response to potential environmental concerns, British Colombia and Nova
Scotia have issued moratoriums on uranium exploration.
New Brunswick recently established strict rules governing uranium
exploration after some companies began searching for the radioactive metal
near Moncton, spurring protests from residents who say the activities
threatened the environment.
Several lobby groups are calling on Ontario to bring in a moratorium on
exploration, but the province has refused.