Marilyn Scales is a field editor for the Canadian Mining Journal, Canada’s first mining publication. She is one of Canada’s most senior mining commentators.
Concern is mounting within the industry as the Quebec government mulls a ban on uranium exploration. This news is creating uncertainty in Quebec’s mining industry, particularly with respect to Strateco Resources’ Matoush project in the Otish Mountains roughly 200 km from Chibougamau and Mistissini.
Strateco has been working at Matoush since 2006, and says it is considered one of the highest grade uranium projects in the world. At Dec. 31, 2011, the deposit had an indicated resource of 453,000 tonnes grading 0.78% U3O8, containing 7.78 million lb of yellowcake. There is also an inferred resource of 2.04 million tonnes grading 0.43% U3O8 and containing 19.22 million lb of U3O8 using a cut-off grade of 0.10%.
Between 2008 and 2012, Strateco conducted rigorous studies into the impact of the Matoush project, which have been independently monitored and verified. Following these studies, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) approved an underground exploration program at Matoush earlier this month. The licence is valid until Oct. 31, 2017.
The alarm is being raised by the Quebec Mineral Exploration Association (AEQM).
AEMQ president Jean-Marc Lulin said in a news release, “The CNSC, an independent industry control and regulatory organization, is an authority with an international reputation and world renowned expertise. It holds authority over all uranium projects in Canada. The CNSC has clearly indicated that the Matoush project poses no risk to public health and that it complies with environmental regulations. Strateco has acted in accordance with the rules imposed by the government of Quebec and with existing standards. The government of Quebec cannot reverse its position without generating uncertainty throughout Quebec’s mining industry and economic consequences for our operators.”
Valérie Fillion, general manager of the AEMQ, added: “The government’s statements regarding uranium come on top of those made about hydrocarbons. They do nothing but postpone investment that we so dearly need. Instead, the Association invites the government to put forward measures that favour the responsible development of our industrial activities and the creation of value-added jobs in our regions, for the benefit of all Quebecers.”
The AEMQ pointed to the Saskatchewan uranium industry as an example. It has been a world leader for 50 years, operating responsibly and maintaining its social licence. A uranium industry in Quebec would generate over $1 billion in production value each year while respecting sustainable development principles.
CMJ readers in Quebec might want to keep an eye on this situation. It seems to this writer that the province is going to slip further and further down on the list of best places to mine.