Most of my constituents oppose uranium mining, Nunavik’s MP says

“A majority of people are opposed to it”


Romeo Saganash, the MP for Abitibi-James Bay-Nunavik-Eeyou, speaks Sept. 2 in Iqaluit. On Sept. 4 he said he believes that a majority of his constituents are opposed to uranium mining. (FILE PHOTO)

Romeo Saganash, the MP for Abitibi-James Bay-Nunavik-Eeyou, speaks Sept. 2 in Iqaluit. On Sept. 4 he said he believes that a majority of his constituents are opposed to uranium mining. (FILE PHOTO)

Romeo Saganash, the MP for Abitibi-James Bay-Nunavik-Eeyou, said Sept. 4 in Iqaluit that he believes most of his constituents in northern Quebec are opposed to uranium mining.

“A majority of people are opposed to it,” Saganash said.

A Quebec government agency called the Bureau d’audiences publiques sur l’environnement, or BAPE, is holding a second round of public hearings in northern Quebec this month as part of a province-wide inquiry into uranium mining that started earlier this year.

The BAPE will hold public hearings in Kangiqsualujjuaq Sept. 25. In an earlier phase of the inquiry, they held public hearings in Kuujjuaq this past June 12 and June 13.

This week, the BAPE team held hearings in the predominately Cree communities of Mistissini and Chisasibi and in the predominately non-Aboriginal community of Chibougamau.

That prompted Matthew Coon-Come, Grand Chief of the Grand Council of the Crees, to issue a statement Sept. 3 saying the James Bay Cree will continue to oppose uranium mining on their lands.

“The profits from uranium mining are short-lived, but the tons of tailings that will inevitably be left behind will remain toxic and radioactive for hundreds of thousands of years. This imposes an unacceptable burden on future generations,” Coon-Come said.

The most advanced uranium project in the region, Strateco Resources Inc.’s Matoush project, lies about 215 kilometres north of Mistissini, and covers traditional family traplines, the James Bay Cree statement said.

When asked to comment on Coon-Come’s remarks, Saganash said there is widespread opposition to the Matoush project in his region among Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people alike.

“There is no social acceptance of that project, either from the Cree or from the non-native population in the region, so that is something we have to take into consideration,” Saganash said.

“A lot of people claimed there was a division between the Cree and the non-native people in places like Chibougamau, but that’s not the case,” he said.

And he said that without social acceptance, uranium can’t be allowed under the James Bay Agreement.

“There are rules and norms and standards set out in the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement under Section 22… One of the essential elements of Section 22 is social impacts of projects in the territory,” Saganash said.

At the Kuujjuaq hearings this past June, Makivik Corp. did not take a position either for or against uranium mining.

But in a Powerpoint presentation obtained by Nunatsiaq News, the organization said it is “not the role of Nunavik leaders” to convince the population of Nunavik to accept uranium mining.

Makivik said that’s the uranium industry’s job — and that the uranium industry “must address their challenges by providing facts and balanced information to enable people to make informed decisions.”

And on behalf of Nunavik residents, Makivik raised a long list of questions related to the potential dangers of uranium exploration and production, including tailings disposal, the contamination of watersheds and the disposal of nuclear fuel waste.

There are two early-stage exploration projects underway near Kangiqsualujjuaq: Azimut’s Rae North and Daniel Lake properties, southeast of the community.

Along Nunavik’s southern boundary, another mining exploration company, Waseco, is in the advanced exploration stage at its Dieter Lake uranium deposit and other properties, about 140 to 280 kilometres southeast of Kuujjuaq.

The Dieter Lake deposit covers about 8,000 hectares and is thought to have resources of up to 110 million pounds of uranium, sometimes accompanied by copper, gold, silver, lead and zinc.

At a summit on resource development held by the Inuit Circumpolar Council in January, 2011, Pita Aatami, then the president of Makivik, said his organization hasn’t “closed the door” on uranium development.

But Saganash said public opinion in Quebec is hostile to uranium mining.

“There’s presently a call for a moratorium on uranium development from more than 3,000 municipalities and towns in the province of Quebec right now,” Saganash said.

The Kangiqsualujjuaq public hearing will look at uranium exploration, production, human health, environmental impacts and government regulations.

Meanwhile, the James Bay Cree remain committed to the permanent moratorium on uranium mining on their lands that they first declared in 2012 and reaffirmed last month.

“Eeyou Istchee is blessed with an abundance of natural resources, and these provide immense opportunities for cooperative and sustainable development, without mining uranium,” Coon Come said.

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