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.
• Related content: Report: Is Canada's mining industry facing a labor shortage?
"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.
• Related content: Top 5 socially responsible mining companies in Canada: 2015
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.
Gerald Group resolves iron ore dispute with Sierra Leone
Gerald Group, the US commodity trader, will pay Sierra Leone $20mn and cede a 10% stake in an iron ore project as part of the resolution to a nearly two-year dispute that led to the shutdown of production, the two sides revealed.
Gerald's wholly-owned subsidiary SL Mining filed for arbitration in August 2019 over a royalty payment dispute and suspended the Marampa mine the following month. Sierra Leone's government responded by cancelling its mining licence.
As part of the agreement signed on Friday, Sierra Leone will take a non-dilutable 10% stake in a new company that will replace SL Mining and resume operations at Marampa by June 1, Gerald said in a statement.
Gerald will make two $10mn payments this year and will have the immediate right to ship its current stockpile of about 707,000 tonnes of iron ore, it said.
Both sides will withdraw their legal claims before the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) and International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID), the statement added.
Gerald’s chairman and CEO Craig Dean commented: "I am delighted that we have been able to resolve our differences and have a fresh start and new beginning with the government of Sierra Leone."
Sierra Leone's Mines Minister Timothy Kabba told a news conference on Tuesday that the agreement was a milestone for the country.
"Whatever the pain we may have borne or dreaded throughout these two years ... this outcome justifies our action," he said.
Gerald estimates that Marampa holds about 1 billion tonnes of iron ore with a potential lifespan of 30 years.
Back in 2019, Dean spoke with Mining about the development of Marampa and commented: "SL Mining offers a substantial opportunity for Gerald Group as our Marampa mine in Sierra Leone is set to deliver six million tonnes of high-grade iron ore during its operational life. If you analyse the iron ore market it has transformed, even from a couple of years ago when prices were very low. Now prices have stabilised we’re in a favourable position with our first shipments leaving for China.
"Our goal is to make ‘Marampa Blue’ an internationally recognised premium grade iron ore brand. We intend to expand the delivery of high-grade 65% iron ore concentrate to markets in Europe and Africa.”