Saskatchewan Takes Ottawa to Court Over Uranium Mess

- November 29th, 2018

The remediation of the now-defunct uranium mine is a longstanding issue between the province and the country.

The government of Saskatchewan is taking the federal government to court in hopes of getting Ottawa to pay for its share of cleanup costs for the Gunnar uranium mine.

The remediation of the now defunct energy mine has been a long-standing issue between the province and the country.

Costs for cleaning up the derelict project were pegged at C$25 million, however the price tag has ballooned since that early estimation and currently sits at approximately C$280 million.

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In 2006, a memorandum of understanding (MOU) was signed between Ottawa and the province of Saskatchewan, declaring the cost incurred during the massive clean-up would be evenly split.

The MOU also outlined the critical importance of properly rehabilitating the site to protect human health, the environment and wildlife.

“The physical risks to safety at the site included abandoned buildings and associated risks related to falls, collapsed structures, and exposure to asbestos. The site also includes unsafely stored chemicals used in the mining process,” read the document.

“In addition, the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) outlines how casual visitors to the abandoned mine site can receive low levels of exposure to gamma radiation and various radionuclides associated with past uranium processing activities.”

The risks associated with the consumption of fish and wildlife from the immediate area was also highlighted.

Despite both parties agreeing on the importance of cleaning up the mine, according to the current Saskatchewan government, the federal government has not held up its end of the deal.

“After repeated requests to the federal government to honor its joint obligations to the North, to northern and First Nations communities and to the environment, we are left with no choice,” Saskatchewan’s Energy and Resources Minister, Bronwyn Eyre said in the announcement. “We implore the federal government to pay its fair share of continuing remediation work.”

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To date, the province has paid more than C$125 million, while Ottawa has contributed only C$1.13 million to rehabilitate the former uranium mine, located a short distance from Fond du Lac on the edge of the Lake Athabasca.

The uranium mine’s fate will set a unique precedent because the energy metal used to fuel nuclear reactors became the only natural resource regulated by the Canadian government in the 1940s.

The Gunnar mine closed its doors in 1963 after less than a decade of operation and has remained a contentious issue between the province and feds for the 55 years since.

“The provincial government takes this project, and the environmental remediation of the affected regions, very seriously,” Eyre added.

“The federal government agreed to cost-share this project equally, but has since refused to uphold its end of the agreement. Despite the rhetoric by the current federal government about how important the environment and relations with First Nations are, its lack of action to fulfill its obligation demonstrates otherwise.”

The fate of Gunnar’s remediation could have long-lasting implications in Saskatchewan, home to the majority of Canada’s ever-expanding uranium sector.

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Securities Disclosure: I, Georgia Williams, hold no direct investment interest in any company mentioned in this article.

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