Tag Archives: uranium mining

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Partnering for the Future

Northern Saskatchewan; remote and rugged, this part of the prairies is known for its pristine lakes, tall arching trees and outdoor adventures.

It is also home to the largest high-grade uranium deposits in the world.

Approximately five hours north of Saskatoon is where you will find the community of Pinehouse Lake, Saskatchewan. The Kineepik Metis village of almost 1,500 is nestled on the Churchill River system.pinehouse

For practically three decades, this community has had a close relationship with Cameco Corporation; the largest private employer in Canada of First Nations and Metis people.

“More or less our community can have a future. Because of our young populations we need to be more sustaining and more certain, and this is one of the things that industry has brought to us, a lot of hope,” states Mike Natomagnan, the mayor of Pinehouse Lake and a former Cameco worker.

For him, hope has translated into real change, including more involvement with the environment, and better educational opportunities for young people. Community dollars have been invested into education through scholarships and partnerships with local schools.

“We want our kids to have a better opportunity to see the world,” Natomagan states, “Push education on top of everything else. It makes for better outcomes.”

Those outcomes can already be seen in the halls of the local high school which boasts a high graduation rate including 37 people pursuing post-secondary studies. For Natomagan it’s a big deal.

The knowledge of elders to provide the community with a better understanding of where they have been and where their world is going through the promotion of culture and language is another key component to educational investment.

Thanks to their partnership with Cameco, Pinehouse Lake has been able to address some health challenges.  Concerned over the rates of diabetes in young people, they invested in a breakfast program and the construction of a community arena to help promote a healthy lifestyle.

He believes in long-term collaborations based on open dialogue and participation. Working closely with industry means more involvement with the environment including visiting the mine site, holding public meetings and providing reports on activities in the area.

Economics is critical to the future of Pinehouse Lake for Natomagan. The mayor sees investments today as the cornerstone of tomorrow.

“Collaborate with industry that wants to be there for a long time. Work with us,” he says. “I hope (Cameco) will be here for a long time. They have stepped up to the table for us.”

In early June, Cameco and First Nations and Metis leaders from across northern Saskatchewan will converge in Ottawa to “celebrate 25 years of partnerships between company and communities.”

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World’s Leading Uranium Source?

In less than 15 years, a country that borders China and Russia has grown to become the world’s leading producer of uranium. According to the World Nuclear Association, Kazakhstan provides 41 percent of the global supply. (Canada is the second-largest source, at 16 percent.)Uranium ore

Kazakhstan’s uranium production increased almost seven fold between 2004 and 2011 from just less than 4,000 tons in 2004 to close to 20,000 tons by 2011. Its uranium mines directly employ about 9,000 people (source: NEA).

Kazakhstan exports all its uranium production, because it doesn’t have any nuclear power plants. But that may soon change. In 2002 the government adopted a resolution to develop a national nuclear power strategy, including determining the feasibility and safety of reactors. The goal is to provide the country with high-tech energy to increase prosperity.

In July, Kazakhstan joined the World Trade Organization. That was a major accomplishment for President Nursultan Nazarbayev, who launched the WTO membership effort almost 20 years ago. We work (hard) to become a part of the global community,” he said as he signed Kazakhstan into the WTO.

Kazakhstan recently agreed to supply India with 5,000 tonnes of uranium over the next four years.

The economic potential of the mining industry hasn’t gone unnoticed by Canada. Cameco has partnered with the Kazakh government as part of a four hundred million dollar mining investment. Started seven years ago, the operations have provided financial and employment benefits for both countries, and improvements to the Kazakh mining industry’s environmental record.

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CNA Dispels Uranium Mining Myths

By Romeo St-Martin
Communications Officer
Canadian Nuclear Association

The Canadian Nuclear Association had its opportunity to appear before the Quebec Bureau d’audiences publiques sur l’environnement (BAPE), an environmental watchdog that is studying uranium mining in Quebec.

In 2013 the Quebec government announced a moratorium on uranium mining and exploration until the BAPE study on the environmental and social impacts of mining has been completed.

Quebec is one of three Canadian provinces with a uranium moratorium, the others being Nova Scotia and B.C.

The appearance by CNA President John Barrett before the hearings was an opportunity to correct much of the misinformation about uranium mining that has appeared in media coverage surrounding the process.

John Barrett, second from left, testifying before the BAPE.
John Barrett, second from left, testifying before the BAPE.

Most notably, these are myths about uranium mining’s impact on workers health, the local environment and the traditional life of the communities.

“Many uniformed observers readily agree with the allegations raised by nuclear opponents that radiation is inherently dangerous, that radioactive waste presents an intractable threat, and that uranium mining disrupts communities,” Barrett said.

“Does uranium mining interfere with traditional land uses? With the benefit of evidence-based research, it appears that a uranium mine is no more disruptive than any other type of mine.”

Not only is uranium mining no more or less disruptive, it is actually safer than other types of mining due to the heavy regulation because of radiation.

Studies and monitoring show no significant impacts to the health of the public living near uranium mines and mills. Exposure to radiation and radon from uranium mining is very low and does not increase the risk of cancer.

Studies how uranium mining and milling does not increase radon levels away from the mine site. The level of radon near uranium mines is similar to natural background radon levels. Radon exposure to the public is virtually zero.

Currently in Saskatchewan where all of Canada’s uranium mining is located, aboriginal groups are consulted and provide valuable input on identifying valued plants, animals and traditional activities. Aboriginal groups also participate in collecting samples used for environmental monitoring.

In fact, uranium mining corporation Cameco is the largest industrial employer of aboriginal people in Canada.

According to the World Nuclear Association, there are 435 nuclear power reactors operating in 31 countries  around the world. Over 60 power reactors are currently being constructed in 13 countries, notably China, South Korea and Russia.

In all, about 160 power reactors with a total net capacity of some 177,000 MWe are planned and over 320 more are proposed.

China is in the middle of a huge reactor building  spree and wants to raise its capacity to 58 gigawatts (GW) by 2020 from 19 GW now. Chinese think tanks estimate that capacity could rise further to 200 GW by 2030.

The World Nuclear Association has estimated that annual Chinese demand for primary uranium will rise tenfold by 2030, which would put it at around 40,000 tonnes.

Zhou Zhenxing, the chairman of China’s CGN Uranium Resources, recently told a Beijing industry conference that his company was planning to invest in mines in Canada to meet the future demand.

“Canada’s uranium reserves are among the largest in the world and we hope to cooperate with Canadian enterprises to complete the mission,” he said.

The long-term picture is pretty clear:  More uranium will be needed globally and Quebec could benefit from exploration and mining.

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Uranium Mining Safety

Uranium Mining Safety Infographic - English