Community Coalition Against Mining Uranium (CCAMU)
Citizens’ Inquiry on the Impacts of the Uranium Cycle
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A Submission

by Jane Gibson

In pondering the issue of uranium mining in the Ottawa Valley, Im almost at a loss for words. Why would we pursue an activity that guarantees environmental degradation and tramples on the rights of First Nations peoples while pursuing two very negative goals: producing extraction-based energy and the radioactive components of weapons? Uranium mining sidetracks us from developing truly clean, renewable, alternative forms of energy and from undertaking aggressive energy conservation policies.

The Government of Ontario has betrayed the Ardoch Algonquin First Nation and the Shabot Obaadjiwan First Nation by allowing, without consultation, mining exploration on their traditional lands, especially in light of obligations under Canadian law with respect to authorizing resource development in territories held under Aboriginal title. Moreover, it is clear that the Mining Act is hopelessly outdated. Adventuristic prospecting, especially for hazardous radioactive minerals, should not be promoted. Furthermore, to separate mineral rights and surface rights on Canadian property at this time in history perpetuates a dangerously unregulated frontier mentality giving powerful rights to invasive claim staking activities, running roughshod over the land regardless of environmental and community concerns.

The negative health impacts of uranium mining and milling activities are well known. Less understood are the effects of the use of depleted uranium, a by-product of the refining process used for manufacturing bullets and other conventional weapons and for the casings of nuclear bombs. Depleted uranium is a highly dense, toxic and radioactive metal. When a depleted uranium round hits a hard target, as much as 70 percent of the projectile can burn on impact, creating a firestorm of depleted uranium particles. The toxic residue of this firestorm is an extremely fine insoluble uranium dust that can be spread by the wind, inhaled and absorbed into the human body as well as by plants and animals, thus becoming part of the food chain. According to the U.N. Environmental Programme, once in the soil, depleted uranium can pollute the environment and create up to a hundredfold increase in uranium levels in ground water. While the extent of the health risk for civilian populations and military personnel is still inconclusive, some researchers are beginning to suspect that in combination, the effects of the toxins and radioactivity in depleted uranium could do significant harm. The idea that chemical and radiological damage are reinforcing each other is very plausible and gaining momentum. Addressing the question of acute post-war health effects of depleted uranium weapons, the IPPNW (International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War) counsels extreme prudence: The precautionary principle states that in the absence of convincing proof that a substance or process is harmless, the presumption must be risk. This principle applies clearly to the use of depleted uranium weapons. Furthermore, these weapons indiscriminately contaminate the places in which they are used, and the contamination persists long after the conclusion of hostilities, adding to the radioactive and toxic burden imposed upon civilians, wildlife, and ecosystems.

In the face of the horrendous, effectively permanent destructiveness to the health and environmental sustainability affecting current and future generations, the continued extraction of uranium is dumbfounding. It constitutes a grave assault on nature and against marginalized communities. All thinking citizens must call for a moratorium on uranium mining and exploration in Ontario.