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BAPE recommends Quebec ban uranium “temporarily or permanently,” but not “in haste”

by Greg Klein | July 17, 2015

Quebec’s year-long review of uranium mining and exploration resulted in a negative but somewhat equivocal recommendation on July 17. The province “could [emphasis added] decide to suspend uranium mining either temporarily or permanently,” Quebec’s environmental oversight agency stated. “However, because of its potential legal and economic impacts, such a decision should not be made in haste, so as to minimize its cost.”

That’s the verdict of BAPE, le Bureau d’audiences publiques sur l’environnement. The commission emphasized two key concerns. Radioactive waste can pose problems for thousands of years but “the most recent confinement technique recommended in Canada has been in use for only 30 years,” BAPE stated. Additionally, “experts are divided. Some believe current knowledge provides sufficient grounds to move forward, while others believe it does not.”

In the commission’s view, the Quebec government could decide to suspend uranium mining either temporarily or permanently. However, because of its potential legal and economic impacts, such a decision should not be made in haste, so as to minimize its cost.—The BAPE report
into Quebec uranium mining

For all that, BAPE’s conclusion sounded equivocal. But the commission did recommend three requirements before allowing uranium mining: “An extensive information program and a co-operation and consensus-building strategy” to gain community support, efforts to “generate enough reliable knowledge to overcome technological uncertainties and current gaps in scientific knowledge” and a legal framework allowing Quebec “to control uranium mining operations by means of rules that are harmonized with federal legislation through a federal-provincial agreement.”

Stating it would likely take several years to achieve those conditions, BAPE “feels it would be inappropriate to authorize uranium mining in Quebec in the present context.”

The report goes to provincial environment minister David Heurtel for a decision.

The non-profit Canadian Nuclear Association stated it will review the report and “looks forward to working with the Quebec government as it studies the benefits and risks posed by uranium mining.” The Cree Nation welcomed BAPE’s recommendations.

A Canadian Press dispatch in the Montreal Gazette quoted l’Association minière du Québec: “Saskatchewan’s experience shows that it is possible to properly operate a uranium mine and adhere to the best practices recognized worldwide, while reaping some very important benefits for Quebec’s socio-economic development and respecting people and the environment.”

As the BAPE inquiry began, the Quebec Mineral Exploration Association called on the province to replace chairperson Louis-Gilles Francoeur, a “former environmental journalist.”

Quebec’s former Parti Québécois government launched the BAPE inquiry after proclaiming a moratorium on uranium exploration in 2013, following opposition by the Cree Nation. As a result Strateco Resources launched legal action challenging the province’s refusal to issue an exploration permit for Matoush, an advanced stage uranium project which the company said hosted one of the world’s highest grades.

Strateco said it spent $123 million on Matoush prior to the moratorium.

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