Comments: Remind me of the Gov of VA's Uranium Working Group hiring miners for the so call new study: "High on the list of Makita’s complaints is the fact that the government relied on consultants with close ties to the uranium mining industry to develop its uranium policy." I guess the procedures is the Canadian way, did the VA Uranium Working Group used the following info to their advantage? ! Keep the Ban!
July 23, 2012
by Warren Bernauer
BAKER LAKE—A conflict over a uranium mine in the far north, four decades in the making, has pitted members of a small Inuit community against their territorial government and a French company.
Inuit in the community of Baker Lake, located west of Hudson Bay in the Kivalliq region of Nunavut, have raised a hue over what they call a faulty, biased process and the Government of Nunavut's uncritical support for uranium mining.
John*, an Inuk from Baker Lake who spoke with The Dominion, said the Nunavut Government’s support for uranium mining was biased.
“The new government policy with regards to uranium, I think that’s biased,” he said. “Them knowing their own people don’t really want uranium mining and the impact it would have on the people.
We’ve heard for years now the environmental impact it’s going to have in our community.”
He later commented, “I think there should be a ban on uranium mining...no uranium mining in Nunavut, period.”
Outrage over the government’s new policy has been expressed by Nunavummiut Makitagunarningit (Makita), (“The People of Nunavut Can Rise Up”), the region’s only environmental NGO, which called the process to develop the policy “biased” and “flawed.” High on the list of Makita’s complaints is the fact that the government relied on consultants with close ties to the uranium mining industry to develop its uranium policy.
Makita was formed in 2009 by residents of Baker Lake and Iqaluit, out of frustration over barriers to public participation in decision-making.
Makita’s objectives include promoting public participation in decisions related to uranium development, promoting accountability and transparency in the territory’s governing institutions and promoting public awareness of the impacts of uranium mining.
Makita was the driving force that initiated the Nunavut government’s development of a new policy.
In 2010, the group demanded that Nunavut hold a public inquiry into uranium mining, citing concerns that “a uranium industry in Nunavut would pose serious risks to the environment, to public health and safety and to Inuit traditions and practices.”
Instead, the government held a “public forum,” which involved hiring consultants to undertake research on uranium mining and a series of public consultation meetings.
The outcome was the June 6, 2012 release of a policy providing conditional support for uranium mining. It differed little from a policy the government issued in 2007.
At the centre of the uranium debate in Nunavut is a proposed mine by AREVA Resources Canada Inc, the Canadian subsidiary of the French, mostly state-owned owned multinational corporation AREVA. Located 80 kilometres west of Baker Lake, the proposed “Kiggavik” project is only the latest of uranium proposals.
Accordingly, Makita demanded that the Government of Nunavut hold a public inquiry “on whether or not to open Nunavut to uranium mining.” The group argued that a public inquiry is more “transparent, flexible and democratic than a regulatory process is,” and that the government needed to seriously assess whether or not Nunavut’s institutions had the ability to properly regulate uranium mining.
Petitions demanding a public inquiry, initiated by Makita, were tabled in the Legislative Assembly of Nunavut in June, 2010.
In August, the government responded by announcing that, instead of a public inquiry, it would hold a “public forum” on uranium mining to help the Government of Nunavut develop a more comprehensive uranium policy.
Makita responded with heavy criticism to the decision to hold a public forum instead of a public inquiry. In a press release, Makita argued that “the proposed process is window dressing—public meetings without a mandate for research and reporting, and without clear standards for transparency or process, will be a waste of time and money.”
During question period in the Legislative Assembly in October, 2010, Premiere Aariak defended the government’s choice of a public inquiry, stating that the government “concluded that the public would be fully consulted with greater participation through a
The public forum was held in 2011. Golder Associates—the same consulting firm hired by AREVA to conduct feasibility studies and write sections of their impact assessment for the Kiggavik mine—was hired by the Nunavut government to conduct research into uranium mining.
The outcome of this research was harshly criticized by Mining Watch Canada, an Ottawa-based NGO that had been invited by Makita to participate in the consultation meetings held during the public forum
Jamie Kneen of Mining Watch slammed the Nunavut government’s decision to have its research conducted by Golder Associates. “Golder should not be expected to produce a document on its own that could put its primary clients (the mining industry) in a bad light,” he writes in the report A Flawed Foundation.
Kneen further charged that the information provided by Golder is “biased, inaccurate and incomplete,” that it “misrepresent[s] the nature of environmental regulation and health protection” and that it “presents assumptions and theories as facts.”
Representatives from the Government of Nunavut were not available for immediate comment on their choice of Golder Associates to conduct research for the public forums.
Consultation meetings were held in Baker Lake, Iqaluit and Cambridge Bay in spring, 2011.
Comments were also accepted by internet and telephone submission. According to a report by Brubacher Development Strategies Incorporated, local residents from communities throughout the territory asked many questions and voiced a variety of opinions on the possibility of uranium mining in Nunavut.
While some residents spoke about the potential employment uranium mining could bring to Nunavut, others voiced concerns about the potential impacts of uranium mining on the environment.
Major concerns included the potential for mine roads to impact caribou migrations, the possibility of contamination of wildlife and water and potential impacts on human health. Many of these concerns were related to the possibility that impacts on wildlife might negatively affect Inuit hunting and fishing.
Some indicated that they had moral objections to mining activity in their territory that might support the creation of nuclear weapons.
Some residents expressed frustration that the majority of the panel the government commissioned for the consultation meetings was supportive of uranium mining, which they felt ensured that discussions during the consultation meetings were also biased.
On June 6, 2012, the Nunavut government released the results of the consultation meetings and a “new” policy statement on uranium mining.
Aside from some minor changes, the new policy statement is essentially the same as the original guiding principles issued in 2007, and indicates support for uranium mining subject to five conditions.
Included in these conditions was an assurance that “uranium mined in Nunavut shall be used only for peaceful and environmentally responsible purposes,” that the people of Nunavut “must be the major beneficiaries” of uranium mining and that uranium mining must have the support of the people of Nunavut “with particular emphasis on communities close to uranium development.” The policy also stipulated that environmental standards must be “assured” and that the health and safety of workers “shall be protected to national standards.”
Makita criticized both the policy and the process by which it was developed.
In a press release, Makita again criticized the government’s choice to have Golder Associates help develop the uranium policy. Chair Sandra Inutiq called the consultation process “clearly not an ‘objective’ policy review” and “biased from the outset.”
She further argued that “the Nunavut government’s ‘public forums’ were a way to deflect Makita’s call for a public inquiry,” according to the June 8 press release.
Due to what the organization considers to have been a “flawed process” with an outcome that supports uranium development, Makita reiterated its position that Nunavut’s institutions are “incapable of protecting the public interest in matters of uranium.”
“What is tragically fascinating is that in a single generation the Inuit leadership has shifted from holding principled anti-nuclear positions (for example the Inuit Circumpolar Conference’s 1983
Janet, who was very critical of AREVA’s proposal but stopped short of expressing opposition, said that there should be a vote “where people are not intimidated and they can vote freely.”
“Looking at the history of proposed uranium in Baker Lake, I still feel that there are a lot of people against it.”
*Due to the controversial nature of AREVA’s proposal, many people spoke under the condition of anonymity. In these cases, pseudonyms have been used.
Warren Bernauer is a graduate student at York University.http://www.dominionpaper.ca/articles/4532