No permits for uranium exploration or mining will be issued in Quebec until an independent study into its environmental impact has been completed, the provincial government has stated. Such moratoriums are not supported by science, says the Canadian nuclear regulator.
Quebec environment minister Yves-Francois Blanchet has requested that the province's environmental assessment agency (Bureau d'audiences publiques sur l'environnement du Québec, BAPE) conduct studies into the environmental and social impacts of uranium exploration and mining. These studies are expected to begin later this year, with a final report with recommendations to be presented by the Office of Public Hearings on the Environment to the government in 2014. The process will include public hearings.
Blanchet said that, "until the time that the Office of Public Hearings on the Environment tables its report, no certificate of authorization will be issued for projects of exploration and exploitation of uranium across the province."
In October 2012, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) issued a licence to Strateco Resources authorizing exploration activities at the Matoush Underground Exploration Project in Quebec. Groups including the region's indigenous population, part of the Cree Nation, opposed the development and pushed for a moratorium on uranium exploration and mining in Quebec.
In response, CNSC president Michael Binder wrote an open letter saying that he was "dismayed that recent statements and discussions over the safety of uranium mining have been based neither on fact nor science."
Binder noted, "Uranium mining is the only type of mining that has a dedicated federal regulator that oversees all aspects of operation on an ongoing basis. Provincial oversight is also strictly applied." He added, "In fact, uranium mining is the most regulated, monitored and understood type of mining in Canada."
"Activists, medical practitioners and politicians who have demanded moratoriums may have various reasons for doing so, but their claims that the public and environment are at risk are fundamentally wrong," Binder said. "The provincial governments that have decided to ban uranium exploration have done so ignoring years of evidence-based scientific research on this industry."
Researched and written
by World Nuclear News