Community Coalition Against Mining Uranium (CCAMU)
Inquiry on the Impacts of the Uranium Cycle
Eastern Ontario at Risk!
by John Kittle
I am a resident of North Frontenac and a member of the Community Coalition Against Mining Uranium. I am a retired professional project manager and have advanced degrees in physics and computer science. I am here today to talk to you about a potential threat to our health, environment and rural economies. |
Here's a sobering thought … the current high price of uranium has sparked a surge of exploration activity by scores of junior mining companies in our province. Over 30,000 acres have been staked near Sharbot Lake, east of Bon Echo Provincial Park. The Bancroft/Haliburton area has also been staked, in addition to areas around Pembroke and western Quebec. Because this exploration is done quietly with no public consultation, it could be happening right now upstream or upwind from your cottage or country property.
The slide on the screen is a radiometric map of eastern Ontario produced by Geological Surveys of Canada. There is active uranium exploration in several major watersheds in eastern Ontario … guess where! This is a serious threat because most junior mining companies are not equipped to deal with radioactive accidents. Also, there is a risk of radioactive contamination of groundwater & wells and radon gas releases, even at the exploration stage. There are proven environmental & public health risks. This is a “wet blanket” on traditional rural businesses, and a threat to our First Nations.
You should know that Ontario’s Mining Act can trump your rights as a property owner! If you do not own the mineral rights on your property, the Mining Act allows companies to stake claims and explore for minerals without your permission. With only 24 hours notice, the Act allows mining companies to trench and drill property using heavy equipment, and allows removal of up to 1000 tons of material per claim. The Mining Act is 150 years old and is long overdue for a major overhaul.
You should also know that, MNR’s land-use policies make mining the preferred land-use for most of Ontario’s Crown land, which is over 85% of the Province. This policy has been downloaded into the Official Plans of most municipalities. Ontario is proud to announce to the mining world that the Province is “open for business”.
Looking at uranium itself … exploitation of this deadly mineral is hazardous to the environment and to public health … Serious health, social and environmental damage has already happened in Elliott Lake, northern Saskatchewan and other uranium mining centers in the world. Dr. Gordon Edwards, founder of the Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility, states: “Mining uranium releases large amounts of radioactive radon gas, which is much heavier than air. The radon will follow the path of the prevailing winds, from west to east, depositing solid radioactive fallout (mainly radioactive lead and polonium). Such radioactive deposits, entering into the food chain, will pose a gradually accumulating health risk to the population – especially children.” Health Canada states that “[radon gas] is the number one cause of lung cancer after smoking”. Other byproducts of uranium are just as deadly. Several major watersheds in eastern Ontario could be threatened. A major radioactive spill upstream from Ottawa could potentially affect the clean water supply of millions of people.
Compounding the problems of the Mining Act, there are major gaps in Ontario’s environmental regulations that put us all at risk. Since 1996, mining exploration companies have been given a free rein in Ontario. Through its “red tape reduction” program in the mid-90s, the Mike Harris government removed the regulatory requirement for environmental assessment at the front-end of the mining process. Since then, at the exploration stage, no permission is required from landowners or municipalities. No water tests are done; no well tests are done; no assessment of species at risk is done. No public, First Nations or municipal consultations are required.
Driven by high uranium prices, scores of active junior mining companies are currently exploring for uranium in our Province, and they are basically self-regulated! It is interesting to note that there is a black-and-white contrast between treatment of mining companies and treatment of rural developers in Ontario! Can you imagine developing a new rural property with no provincial or municipal regulations or oversight? Fat chance!
Why is the Province raking this risk? It is completely unnecessary! Ontario uranium is NOT needed to keep the province’s nuclear reactors going. The Province currently gets all of its uranium from northern Saskatchewan, more than 85% of which is exported outside Canada. No uranium is currently mined in Ontario, and has not been for 30 years. Furthermore, Ontario’s uranium deposits are low-grade, making them difficult to justify economically. If they are developed, roughly 200 times more tailings will be produced by Ontario mines. Estimates indicate that current stockpiles and northern Saskatchewan production will last more than 50 years. Governments have short memories and have forgotten the lessons learned from 3 Mile Island and Chernobyl.
Uranium exploitation is a total “wet blanket” on sustainable development plans. Most rural Councils are now developing exciting new Integrated Community Sustainability Plans to map out a 20-year vision for rural development. This includes eco-tourism, organic farming, hunting, fishing and scores of other sustainable businesses, some traditional, some new. It also includes increasing trends to alternative energy. Most people consider uranium exploitation a serious “wet blanket” on these plans. It can also have a serious impact on property values.
The Province has a duty to protect its citizens! Scores of organizations, First Nations communities, thousands of residents and 14 eastern Ontario municipal Councils are opposed to uranium exploitation in eastern Ontario.
This is urgent … a large number of junior exploration companies are active right now throughout eastern Ontario & western Quebec. This is a serious risk to eastern Ontario’s environment, public health, municipal economies and First Nations traditional life. We are asking Premier McGuinty’s government to act immediately to protect us!
We now need to increase political pressure big-time! To date, there has been no response from the Province to any of the 14 eastern Ontario Councils. Responses to hundreds of letters and telephone calls have been either a bureaucratic run-around or outright lies! The Province is ignoring us, hoping we’ll go away. But, we won’t go away; there is too much at stake!
So, we are creating a political pressure group to leverage the base of support we have built, and to demand answers from responsible ministers. We are forming a small working group to move this forward. Watch for details over the next 2 weeks!
In closing, I would like to say that there is a great up-side to all of this. Thanks to uranium, we have met many wonderful people over the past year (it seems like much longer!). I think we have built a strong sense of community and commitment, not just to protect Frontenac and Lanark, but to continue on to develop the future along the lines of sustainable ddevelopment. This community will last for the long-term, far after we have won the battle against uranium.
Organizations Opposing Uranium Exploration in Eastern Ontario