Oil Sands Truth: Shut Down the Tar Sands

Industry backlash against BC uranium mining ban

B.C.'s uranium ban is irrational, economically irresponsible

Vancouver Sun

Friday, May 09, 2008

The provincial government has slapped a ban on exploration for uranium, outlawed any development of known deposits and imposed a "no registration reserve" to ensure no future claims include rights to the mineral. It has offered no rationale for these draconian measures.

In the same terse press release that declared the moratorium, Kevin Krueger, minister of state for mining, offered weasel words to the industry. "British Columbia is an attractive place for mining exploration and investment," he said, "and we are committed to fostering a healthy, productive industry."

Try telling that to David Stone, president of Boss Power Corp., a uranium exploration company with several claims around Vernon and Osoyoos.

Krueger's decree cut the value of the company's capital stock in half overnight. Only after the ban was made public did the government bother to call Stone to advise him it intended to drive him out of business.

Krueger has presented no scientific evidence that uranium exploration is harmful to the environment, and couldn't do so if he tried.

Saskatchewan, the nucleus of Canada's uranium industry, proves every day that uranium can be mined safely and responsibly. Discoveries and development in that province have made Canada the world's single largest uranium supplier, accounting for roughly 30 per cent of global production.

Uranium mining is no more dangerous than other forms of mining, which happens to be among the safest of all heavy industries. Nuclear safety is a federal responsibility and the industry is highly regulated by Ottawa.

It's worth noting that the residents of Port Hope, Ont., where uranium has been refined since the 1930s, showed no ill effects, according to Health Canada.

The claim that the ban on exploration supports the B.C. Energy Plan commitment of no nuclear power is bogus. After all, B.C. produced 26 million tonnes of metallurgical coal in 2007 and exported virtually all of it for use in steel mills around the world with the attendant environmental impacts.

There are no major steel mills in B.C. Presumably, B.C. uranium would similarly be destined for export.

The irrational approach to policy-making represented by the uranium ban is not just unfair, it is bad governance. The strength of democracies is the rule of law. Under the rule of law, there are processes to follow that lead to decisions based on facts and the public interest. To deny a company access to the process by imposing a moratorium is to deny the rule of law.

B.C. mining companies generate about $8 billion in economic activity annually and paid $800 million in taxes last year. Exploration investment in 2007 totalled $400 million, up from $20 million in 1998.

The industry employs more than 7,300 people (supporting 28,000 indirect jobs) and it is the largest private sector employer of aboriginal people in Canada. A skilled worker in the mining industry typically earns $100,000 a year in salary and benefits.

This is the sort of industry the B.C. government should be nurturing. Instead, Premier Gordon Campbell -- with bans on exploration and development, permitting delays, gaps in infrastructure and other disincentives -- has invited industry players to seek jurisdictions where mining is more welcome. In Chile, for example, the government has prepared educational videos to inform the public about the benefits of copper mining.

No new major metal mine has opened in B.C. in 11 years.

Rather than imposing bans on exploration without any consultation with the industry, Campbell must aggressively encourage mining investment and champion regulatory reform so it won't take another decade to bring the next one into production.
© The Vancouver Sun 2008


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