QUEBEC — No permits for the exploration or mining of uranium in Quebec will be issued until an independent study on the environmental impact and social acceptance of extracting uranium has been completed, Environment Minister Yves-François Blanchet announced Thursday.
Blanchet has asked Quebec’s Bureau d’audiences publiques sur l’environnement to examine the issue of uranium development and uranium waste in general, with hearings throughout the province.
“Some people fear uranium more than iron or gold,” Blanchet said, explaining the BAPE will have full latitude to recommend all possible scenarios, from a permanent moratorium to determining safe ways to develop the heavy metal, used to fuel nuclear reactors and build nuclear bombs.
“As far as I know, this stuff is radioactive,” Blanchet said, adding he cannot predict the outcome of the study. “It might not be dangerous and it might be. This is the kind of issue that the Bureau will address.”
As a first step Thursday, Blanchet announced he has ordered scientific studies to prepare for the BAPE panel, which would begin its work in the fall, reporting in about a year.
The minister said the BAPE will decide how much time it needs for the study and he cannot interfere with its work.
Blanchet said he realizes the northern Quebec Crees of Eeyou Istchee have called for a permanent moratorium on uranium development and he hopes the Crees and other aboriginals participate in the process.
In a statement, the Crees welcomed the “moratorium,” while expressing reserves.
Bill Namagoose, executive director of the Grand Council of the Crees, said Blanchet’s decision has set off a “constitutional crisis,” explaining that the BAPE has no jurisdiction under the James Bay Northern Quebec Agreement, and calling on the minister to harmonize the BAPE process with the James Bay agreement.
“Treaty trumps law,” Namagoose said. “We can’t allow a legal procedure to override the James Bay Northern Quebec Agreement.”
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