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Minister Accepts Review Board Recommendations and Denies Ur-Energy Exploration Permit In Thelon River Basin

by admin ~ November 1st, 2007

One chapter is closed . . . and more questions remain. After several months delay, and a cabinet reshuffle, the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs has finally given some direction to the rush for mineral exploration in the Northwest Territories on lands in the Upper Thelon River Basin. Ur-Energy Inc. (a junior mining company based in Colorado and Ontario) submitted a land use application for exploratory drilling on it’s Screech Lake claims twice in the last three years. The regulatory body mandated to evaluate the social and environmental impacts of new developments in the Northwest Territories held public hearings on the proposal and recommended against the development last May, 2007. The Review Board’s Report indicated a significant public concern for the project, and concluded while “the proposed development is physically small, the potential cultural impacts are not” (pg. 1). In a letter sent October 23, 2007, the Hon. Minister Stahl of the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs agreed with the Review Board, and rejected the land use permit “without environmental review.”

With four other developments looming in the region, and one company (Uravan Minerals Inc.) continuing to drill on it’s 2007-2008 permit, it is still unclear what the Federal decision means for the future of uranium claims in the region. In his approval letter, Minister Stahl tasked the Department to develop a plan “for addressing the broader long term context of land-use in the area”, which the CBC reports “may allow development in some areas of the basin.” A draft plan is scheduled to be shared with key stakeholders by the end of November. And in a response to the Federal decision, Ur-Energy Inc. President Bill Boberg indicated his company sees the decision as “a delay” (CBC), and “will continue to pursue any and all approaches that will allow us to properly explore the project as soon as possible” (Ur-Energy). It’s efforts to lobby the Federal government have been on-going.

Many continue to watch the issue with a high level of interest, and hope that any future policy decisions on land use planning and exploration proposals will continue to reflect current public values, and also a significant level of involvement from local constituencies and other parties directly impacted by mining developments in the region. The previous recommendations and report of the Review Board received a broad level of support from local First Nations, tribal organizations, eco-tourism operators, NGOs, wildlife managers, and the general public. With the public interest now underscored by Federal action, it is clear that many see closer consultation and stronger limits on mining activities in the Upper Thelon Basin as providing a major benefit to the Northwest Territories, the long term public interest, and the diverse constituencies of the North.

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