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Saskatchewan uranium expert brings warning to eastern Ontario, western Quebec

Four city tour to reveal uranium’s long-term ecological and health pain for short-term private economic gain

by Lynn Daniluk

  Jim Harding

Jim Harding.

OTTAWA – An expert on Saskatchewan’s uranium mining industry will warn people against letting the industry establish itself in the Ottawa River watershed in a 5-day book tour Jan. 22-26, 2008.

“Don’t let the uranium industry set up shop in the Ottawa River watershed,” warned Jim Harding, author of Canada’s Deadly Secret: Saskatchewan Uranium and the Global Nuclear System, on the eve of his 4-city tour.

“Our toxic experience in Saskatchewan puts the lie to the industry’s promise that uranium mining is safe,” Harding said. “Even drilling for core samples in uranium-rich areas releases dangerous radon gases into the atmosphere. The reality is local residents and those downwind and downstream of mines are left to deal with the deadly legacy of increased rates of cancer and other health problems.”

“Radon gas, only one by-product of the uranium decay chain, is known as the second leading cause of lung cancer,” Harding said. “The Mississippi, Ottawa and Rideau River watersheds – and all those who live on or near them – are at risk of radioactive contamination if uranium mining is allowed to proceed.”

Harding is a retired professor of environmental and justice studies. As Director of Research in School of Human Justice at the University of Regina, he headed up the Uranium Inquiries Project. Harding will visit Ottawa, Wakefield, Perth and Carleton Place from Jan. 22 to 26. There are approximately 30,000 acres of active uranium claims in eastern Ontario, which affect unceded Algonquin land and private property near Sharbot Lake. In Western Quebec, exploration companies have staked hundreds of claims blanketing tens of thousands of acres of land from Wakefield to Fort Coulonge. These claims include provincially designated wildlife habitats that have been staked by the Quebec government’s own Crown company SOQUEM Inc.

"We have plenty of direct experience with how aboriginal rights are handled when it comes to uranium mining," Dr. Harding said. "When the Saskatchewan government allowed the expansion of the uranium industry in the late 1970s it totally ignored aboriginal rights." "Then when a 1993 federal-provincial inquiry recommended against a uranium mine, in part due to cumulative effects on the aboriginal land base, the government simply ignored this and plowed ahead", he continued. "Furthermore, though the government guaranteed that our uranium would no longer be used for weapons, we now know this is not true," Harding added. "Uranium from Saskatchewan is the main source for both the U.S. and France, countries where the military and commercial nuclear systems are highly integrated. Our uranium has become the U.S.'s main source for depleted uranium (DU), which is used for a variety of military purposes", Harding continued. Dr. Harding will talk of the growing interdependence of Ontario and Saskatchewan in their struggles for a non-nuclear way to tackle global warming. "With Saskatchewan-based Cameco, the largest uranium company in the world, and operator of the Port Hope uranium conversion plant and the Bruce reactors, now supporting nuclear power in Alberta and an international nuclear waste dump in Saskatchewan, we are being challenged to quickly put our collective heads and resources together", said Harding.

According to the Canadian Nuclear Association, over 80 per cent of Canadian uranium is exported – a full 76 per cent to the United States. "While Ontario's Premier says uranium mining must expand in Ontario to supply fuel for its nuclear power, the fact is that most Canadian (Saskatchewan) uranium is exported, and under NAFTA we are being integrated in the U.S. military-industrial nuclear system", Harding stated. "Our sovereignty as well as ecology calls for conversion of our energy system towards renewable, sustainable forms," he concluded.

Harding’s visit is an opportunity for local residents to learn what is at stake should uranium exploration and mining go ahead near Sharbot Lake and in West Quebec.

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