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Uranium proposals in Upper Thelon River Basin meet strong opposition

by admin ~ January 22nd, 2007

In 2005, Ur-Energy began a consultation process with Lutsel K’e and an environmental review process with the Mackenzie Valley Environmental Impact Review Board for exploratory uranium drilling south of the Thelon Game Sanctuary. There are already numerous drilling proposals for the Thelon River Basin in areas around Aberdeen Lake and west of Baker Lake. In 2005, however, Ur-Energy and two other companies abandoned the process because of local opposition and anticipated costs for the project. According to the CBC, the decision of the company to withdraw its proposal costs “tens of thousands of dollars in studies and legal fees, and months of delays”.

Early this winter, however, the company has a new director (January 04), $2.5 million in funds from a recent stock sale (Dec. 14), and is seeking to renew its uranium exploration proposals at Screech Lake. According to local and national press coverage, little has changed in Lutsel K’e, and there continues to be strong opposition to the project. In a two day hearing of the Mackenzie Valley Environmental Impact Review Board on Jan. 16-17, panel members heard from Lutsel K’e Dene First Nation, Akaitcho Treaty 8 Tribal Corp., Athabasca Denesuline, World Wildlife Federation, Beverly and Qamanirjuaq Caribou Management Board, and two wilderness outfitters with extensive experience in the area (Alex Hall and Tom Faess). These groups and First Nations, and other South Slave residents, businesses and organizations (with the exception of the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development – DIAND), made presentations opposing the project. Monica Kreiger, manager of the Wildlife and Land’s Committee in Lutsel K’e, said “the community has taken a position that they don’t want to see a uranium mine so they’re not going to approve even the initial stage of one there.” Of particular concern is the viability of game populations, including migratory caribou herds, and the management plan for the Thelon Game Sanctuary, which was completed in 2001 but has yet to be signed by the government of the Northwest Territories. The Dene recently approved a new National Park on the east arm of the Great Slave Lake, and have a strong historical, cultural, and spiritual attachment to the river valleys and lands of the upper Thelon River Basin. “We don’t want exploration in the Thelon area,” said Lutsel K’e Chief Adeline Jonasson. The decision of the Environmental Impact Review Panel is expected in mid-March.

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