Uranium mining: everything about it is negative
“There is probably fairly low probability that mining will even occur”
Youth should be congratulated on tackling the issue of uranium mining in Nunavut.
Both sides sound as though they did their research thoroughly. Unfortunately the “economic benefit” argument is based upon promise and not fact.
What little research that has been done does not support the argument for local benefit. The few unskilled jobs that go locally provide money that accrues to individuals, not communities. The government of Nunavut may benefit from royalties — but as Saskatchewan recently discovered, even that was banked in Switzerland to avoid taxes.
What kind of legacy does uranium mining leave? The natural situation can never be restored; 85 per cent of the nuclear radiation bound up in the rock will be left on the surface.
The industry speaks of “reclamation” but even that is more an unfulfilled promise than fact. The area can never be normal again.
Mines in northern Saskatchewan still spill toxic tailings into waters bound for the Arctic Ocean. Mining in Niger (North Africa) has been going on since 1968 with not a whisper of reclamation. Two million tonnes of radioactive tailings were dumped into local surface waters in Gabon (also Africa.)
Containment in Australia recently ruptured and is still spreading into the surface waters of the surrounding Indigenous lands. The mining company in Navajo Territory in the south-western United States transferred its assets and then declared bankruptcy.
Reclamation, such as it is, is extremely expensive. Germany began reclamation of a collection of mines referred to as WISMUT in the 1990s —to date, close to twelve billion dollars have been spent and the job is not complete.
The tailings from a proposed mine in Tanzania expected to produce uranium for 20 years has a clean-up price tag of four billion dollars.
Given that uranium has only two end uses — nuclear power and nuclear bombs — no renaissance for the first and no desire for the second, there is probably fairly low probability that mining will even occur.
The industry and the argument will serve only to divide a community that needs to work together to tackle challenging times.
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