Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Northerners Debate Uranium Mine and Caribou Effects

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Northerners Debate Uranium Mine and Caribou Effects

Article excerpt

Northerners debate uranium mine, caribou


BAKER LAKE, Nunavut - Huli Tagoona was just a girl the first time uranium miners proposed to develop a massive deposit of the radioactive metal near her home town of Baker Lake, Nunavut.

"I was about 11," she says. "I spent many an hour listening to (presentations), spending time at the hearings."

Now, at 37, she's about to relive her childhood as final hearings begin Monday before the Nunavut Impact Review Board on a second proposal to eventually build a mine on the tundra. As a spokeswoman for the anti-uranium group Makitagunarningit, her opinion on it hasn't changed.

"Our big concern is the caribou and their calving grounds."

French nuclear giant Areva is proposing to build one underground and four open-pit mines just west of Baker Lake, on the edge of the calving grounds of one of the North's great caribou herds and near the largest and most remote wildlife sanctuary on the continent.

The $2.1 billion project would provide at least 400 jobs, many reserved for local Inuit. Its annual payroll would be $200 million for at least 17 years.

Areva has been considering the project since at least 1997. Its current plans have been before the regulator since 2007.

"We believe we've got a very good environmental assessment," said Areva spokesman Barry McCallum. "We're looking forward to participating in the hearings."

Areva's plans would empty part of a lake, build a road through the habitat of a declining caribou herd and stretch a bridge across a Canadian heritage river. Planes loaded with radioactive concentrate would take off from its airstrip and barges with the same cargo would leave from its dock on Baker Lake.

The road and mill that it proposes would make it easier for other mines to open. Those deposits are on calving grounds for caribou that aboriginals in three provinces and two territories depend on.

At the very least, some protections should be created for the calving grounds in advance of any industrial development being approved for the area, said Tagoona.

"The construction of this mine will make it so much more feasible for other mines to open," she said. …

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