New report questions the future of Quebec’s uranium mining industry
The outlook of Quebec’s uranium mining industry does not look promising as a new report has concluded that “it would be counterindicated, [or ill-advised] in the present context, to allow uranium mining operations in Québec.”
The condemning remarks are part of a 626-page report conducted by Québec's Bureau d'audiences publiques sur l'environnement (BAPE).
According to the BAPE report, uranium mining in the province is far from reaching social and political consensus due to scientific uncertainty and gaps in technological knowledge. “These uncertainties are compounded by the radioactivity of uranium residues, which may remain problematic for thousands of years,” the agency wrote in its report.
The report also stated that Quebec’s government could ultimately decide to suspend, or terminate, the local uranium industry.
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"The BAPE's decision to continue to question the long-standing science and proven safe track record of modern uranium mining is misleading Quebecers and all Canadians," said Michael Binder, president of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC).
"To suggest that uranium mining is unsafe is to imply that the CNSC and the government of Saskatchewan have been irresponsible in their approval and oversight of the uranium mines of Canada for the last 30 years."
However, the report also revealed a safety framework for the province to follow if it chose to open the door to uranium mining. The three requirements included securing social acceptance, making sustained efforts to gain knowledge with the aim of closing scientific knowledge gaps and technological and uncertainties, and taking the time required to formulate and adopt a legal framework for uranium mining through harmonized rules with federal legislation.
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According to CanadianManufacturing.com, the Canadian Nuclear Association said it looks forward to working with the Quebec Government as it studies the benefits and risks posed by uranium mining.
“We appreciate that the Quebec Government is keeping an open mind on this issue, particularly as it works with all other provinces to develop a clean energy strategy for Canada,” said John Barrett, CNA President.
The Assembly of First Nations Quebec-Labrador welcomed the BAPE report, commenting that it supports their anti-uranium mining position.
“The AFNQL declares a permanent moratorium on the development of the uranium and rare earth sector on all the territories of First Nations in Quebec and invites the provincial government to do the same,” the organization said.
Canada is the second-largest uranium producer behind Kazakhstan and ahead of Australia.
Vale invests $150mn to extend life of Manitoba operations
Vale has announced a $150mn CAD investment to extend current mining activities in Thompson, Manitoba by 10 years while aggressive exploration drilling of known orebodies holds the promise of mining well past 2040.
Global energy transition is boosting the market for nickel
The Thompson Mine Expansion is a two-phase project. The announcement represents Phase 1 and includes critical infrastructure such as new ventilation raises and fans, increased backfill capacity and additional power distribution. The changes are forecast to improve current production by 30%.
“This is the largest single investment we have made in our Thompson operations in the past two decades,” said Mark Travers, Executive Vice-President for Base Metals with Vale. “It is significant news for our employees, for the Thompson community and for the Province of Manitoba.
“The global movement to electric vehicles, renewable energies and carbon reduction has shone a welcome spotlight on nickel – positioning the metal we mine as a key contributor to a greener future and boosting world demand. We are proud that Thompson can be part of that future and part of the low carbon solution.”
Vale continues drilling program at Manitoba
Coupled with today’s announcement, Vale is continuing an extensive drilling program to further define known orebodies and search for new mineralization.
“This $150mn investment is just one part of our ambitious Thompson turnaround story. It is an indicator of our confidence in a long future for the Thompson operations,” added Dino Otranto, Chief Operating Officer for Vale’s North Atlantic Base Metals operations.
“Active collaboration between our design team, technical services, USW Local 6166, and our entire Thompson workforce has delivered a safe, efficient and fit-for-purpose plan that will enable us to extract the Thompson nickel resources for many years to come.”
The Thompson orebody was first discovered in 1956 by Vale (then known as Inco) following the adoption of new exploration technology and the largest exploration program to-date in the company’s history. Mining of the Thompson orebody began in 1961.
“We see the lighting of a path forward to a sustainable and prosperous future for Vale Base Metals in Manitoba,” said Gary Annett, General Manager of Vale’s Manitoba Operations.