Oil Sands Truth: Shut Down the Tar Sands

INAC “no” to UR-Energy uranium drilling in the Thelon (NWT)

INAC “no” to UR-Energy uranium drilling in the Thelon
By LEA STORRY, SRJ Editor 31.OCT.07

The beauty of the NWT’s Upper Thelon is safe...for now. Chuck Strahl, the minister of Indian and northern affairs Canada (INAC), formally accepted the Mackenzie Valley Environmental Impact Review Board (Review Board) recommendation that exploration work proposed by UR-Energy be rejected without an environmental impact review.

“The board is pleased with the minister’s acceptance of our recommendation,” said Review Board chairperson Gabrielle Mackenzie-Scott. “Not only did he accept our recommendation, but he is interested in our suggestions.”

One suggestion includes an interim land use plan be developed and implemented incorporating the cultural values of the area.

“The plan is currently a work in progress,” stated Carolyn Relf, INAC director of mineral and petroleum resources. “It’s different from a land use plan. The general focus is on conservation, but integrating resource potential too.”

Relf explained there is a huge knowledge gap between mineral potential in the Thelon, cultural interests and conservation efforts.

“This is early stages and it’s difficult to discuss. We’re compiling data so we can discuss it with stakeholders and Aboriginal groups.”

Lutsel K’e residents showed up in full force at a public hearing last January to resoundingly say “no” to uranium drilling in the Thelon Basin. Protecting the area is important to the people here – culturally and spiritually.

Alex Hall, a canoe guide who owns Canoe Arctic Inc which traverses the Thelon, said the decision sets a precedent.

“This is one of a few times the board has turned down an industrial developer. Hopefully this is going to lead to the protection of the Thelon. It’s one of the most beautiful places in the world.”

Hall also stated there should be policies and procedures in place to aid against further development.

“Nobody is being served the way things are now. Anyone can go in there and explore. There’s nothing to stop them until they want to drill — then they’re subjected to the Mackenzie Valley Environmental Impact Review Board.”

The canoe guide added there are four other projects up for environmental assessment and he would like to see the Review Board use the UR-Energy recommendation as a guide.

“This way we don’t have to go through all the public hearings and waste time and resources again.”

UR-Energy reaction

Ur-Energy wrote in a press release it is “disappointed and concerned with the adoption of the Review Board’s recommendation and is reviewing the options available to it as a result of this decision including methods to move forward its exploration project at Screech Lake.”

Company officials said they didn’t want to make any further comments regarding this issue when contacted.

Lutsel K’e Dene First Nation (LKDFD) weren’t available for comment.


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