[Port Radium uranium mining] They Never Told Us These Things – Julie Salverson ( Magazine – Summer 2011)

Maisonneuve is a Montreal-based general interest magazine that publishes a wide range of Canadian and international topics about culture and politics. It is named after Paul de Chomedey de Maisonneuve, the founder of Montreal.

A mine in the Northwest Territories provided much of the uranium used during the Manhattan Project—unbeknownst to the indigenous people who worked there.

Long ago, there was a famous rock called Somba Ke—“The Money Place”—on the eastern shore of Great Bear Lake in the Northwest Territories. Loud noises came from this place and it was bad medicine to pass near it. In the old days, a group of caribou hunters camped at Somba Ke for a night. One of them—a man named Ehtséo Ayah, known in his community as “Grandfather”—had a dream and saw many strange things: men with white faces climbing into a big hole in the ground, a great flying bird, a big stick dropped on people far away. This would happen sometime in the future, after we are all gone, the prophet said. In his vision, everyone died. Everyone burned.

Theresa Baton recounts this tale, recorded by the elder George Blondin, as we sit in her narrow, smoky trailer. There is a framed photo of Ayah on the sideboard. Baton is a strikingly beautiful woman, as slender and fit as her husband, Peter. They are two of the few Dene grandparents left alive in Déline, an indigenous community of several hundred people in the Northwest Territories.

In the waning days of World War II, the people of Déline and the white miners working at nearby Port Radium ferried bags of uranium ore from the Eldorado mine—where Somba Ke once sat—across Great Bear Lake. The ninety-pound sacks were carried on men’s backs, loaded onto boats and transported about two thousand kilometres south to Alberta. The crushed ore was refined in Port Hope, Ontario. Then it was sent to the Manhattan Project in New Mexico, where it was used to develop the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Few Canadians know about their country’s role in one of history’s most destructive acts of war.

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For Cameco’s new CEO, patience is a priority – by Brenda Bouw (Globe and Mail – June 22, 2011)

The Globe and Mail is Canada’s national newspaper with the second largest broadsheet circulation in the country. It has enormous impact and influence on Canada’s political and business elite as well as the rest of the country’s print, radio and television media.

When Tim Gitzel takes over as chief executive officer at Cameco Corp.  next week he will become more than just head of the world’s largest publicly traded uranium company.

The 49-year-old Saskatoon-based executive will also be thrust into a leadership role in a global industry fighting to convince the world that nuclear energy is a clean, safe alternative despite the recent nuclear disaster in Japan.

He must also try to persuade investors that uranium – the price of which has fallen about 25 per cent since Japan’s earthquake and ensuing nuclear crisis struck in March – is heading for a recovery. Even more pressing for Mr. Gitzel will be trying to stage a rebound in Cameco’s stock, which has fallen nearly 40 per cent over the past three months.

Overall, Mr. Gitzel has his work cut out for him as countries such as Germany, Switzerland and most recently Italy have vowed to phase out their nuclear energy programs as a result of pressure from citizens nervous about the potential for a nuclear meltdown in their own country.

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The tortured future of Elliot Lake – by Lloyd Tataryn (Saturday Night, June, 1976)

This article was orginally published in Saturday Night (a Canadian general interest magazine that ceased publication in 2005) in the June, 1976 issue.

“The conditions in Elliot Lake are not the best conditions to work in to survive a normal life span. If anybody does not like to go to the hospital with lung cancer, he should have a very close look at the Elliot Lake situation before he signs on as an employee of either one of the companies. We believe that the companies should not have the right to expose people to conditions that will cause bodily harm. There has to be a clean-up programme before we can definitely advise people to seek employment in Elliot Lake.” (Paul Falkowski, United Steel Workers of America, Environmental Representative – June 1976)

The uranium miners there are dying of cancer at three times the normal rate. But what can a single-industry town do about it? Close down? Or live with death?

His voice broke in mid sentence. His eyes were red-rimmed and he fought back tears.

“I could be healthy, still workin. Now I have dust plus cancer. And the family is all upside down.  Dad’s gonna die maybe today, maybe tomorrow, we don’t know.” His voice broke once again. “And that’s the way it looks like. It’s bad. It’s very bad for a family. Family’s more hurt than me. Cryin’, you know. Disaster.”

It was the type of interview that makes a documentary a success. It was also the type of interview that makes a journalist fell parasitic. One is pleased with having captured an extremely moving moment on tape. But one also feels exploitative for having the presumption to ask a dying man to spill his emotions into your microphone.

Here was a forty-four-year-old man who had spent fifteen years digging and blasting a living in the Elliot Lake uranium miners in northern Ontario. The work was back breaking, the kind of work that makes a man tough and hard. Miners a proud of the strong, vigorous image they project. They don’t cry in public. They don’t cry, that is, unless they are overwhelmed by events and their defences have been destroyed.

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Uranium: Political Baby’s Growing Pains [Elliot Lake History] – by R. M. Baiden (April 29, 1961)

This article was orginally published in Saturday Night (a Canadian general interest magazine that ceased publication in 2005) on April 29, 1961.

Uranium: Political Baby’s Growing Pains

Who is hiding what?

Canada’s uranium industry was fathered by the military necessity and mothered by politics. Deserted by its father in childhood, it now faces adolescence with only a mother  – at least until mother can find a new husband among the world’s nuclear power stations, most of which are not yet built.

But until this happy union, estimated at perhaps a decade away, the future of this ailing child is tied by political apron strings. More than that, both the form and the fact of its very existence depend upon political decisions to be made soon in Ottawa: How to allocate among the various producing mines the recently publicized agreement to sell 24,000,000 pounds of uranium to Britain.

At current shipping rates, this represents 13 months additional production for the three Canadian mining areas of Elliot Lake, Bancroft and Beaverlodge. Upon wise allocation of this order depends not only the ability of some mines to stay in business, but also the ability of the industry as a whole to take quick advantage of developing civilian demand in the 1970s.

It was undoubtedly, in recognition of the critical importance of this order that the federal government decided that allocation would be a political decision and not a decision by its agent, the Eldorado Mining and Refining Co. In short, allocations of this order, and possibly some reshuffling of existing contacts, must be based upon the national interest, not on strictly economic factors.

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Elliot Lake Uranium Mining History – Our Wild Atomic City – by Alan Phillips (Originally Published in Maclean’s Magazine – May 25, 1957)

Denison Mine was the largest uranium deposit in Elliot Lake, Ontario.

Here’s a Graphic Picture of Ontario’s Elliot Lake

A billion-dollar order for uranium
A $300-million spending spree to fill it
A lawless horde of transients
A Communist struggle to control mine workers
A serious outbreak of disease

Just off the Trans-Canada Highway skirting Lake Huron’s north shore, a buried vein of ore snakes north through the Algoma Basin in the shape of an upside-down S. It curves for ninety miles beneath the pineclad granite knolls, a mother lode that is spawning eleven giant uranium mines in the greatest eruption of growth since gold gave birth to Dawson City.

The hub of these mines is a chaotic city-to-be called Elliot Lake. Twenty-two months ago it was just a stand of timber dividing two lakes, so wild that a bulldozer leveling brush ran over a large black bear. Today it’s a prime example of a boom town, familiar symbol of dynamic growth – and trouble.

For a couple of months this spring Elliot Lake made headlines that had nothing to do with uranium. An outbreak of jaundice packed ninety victims into nearby Blind River’s 59-bed hospital. About three hundred cases were reported before the disease began to wane early last month. Provincial health officials insisted that the outbreak did not rate as an epidemic while union officials were demanding the mines shut down until the sewage system was improved.

Infectious disease is an age-old bugbear of the boom town, which has its other ageless features. It is the nation in miniature with its time span speeded up as in a silent movie.

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Australia Prepares to Overtake Canadian Uranium Production – by Marilyn Scales

Marilyn Scales is a field editor for the Canadian Mining Journal, Canada’s first mining publication. She is one of Canada’s most senior mining commentators.

Australia will quadruple uranium production pushing itself ahead of Canada as the world’s largest producer. Australian state premier Mike Rann made this boast to a group of Indian journalists at the Citi Australia and new Zealand Investment conference earlier this month, according to a report in The Hindu of March 8, 2009.

The single project that would rocket Australian uranium production ahead of Canadian is the expansion of BHP Billiton’s Olympic Dam mine. The company is looking at the feasibility of expanding output from 4,300 t/y to 19,000 t/y. That would create a single mine that could produce 35% of the world’s current uranium needs.

The newspaper account did not specify whether all those tonnes per year were elemental uranium or uranium oxide. A quick peek at the BHP Billiton website confirmed that the annual output is tonnes of U3O8.

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Realities Surrounding Nuclear Energy Ensure Prosperity for Uranium Miners for the Rest of this Century – by Paul Stothart

Paul Stothart - Mining Association of CanadaPaul Stothart is vice president, economic affairs of the Mining Association of Canada. He is responsible for advancing the industry’s interests regarding federal tax, trade, investment, transport and energy issues.

Few energy sources attract the controversy that is associated with nuclear energy and the fuel it requires – uranium. The spectre of potential radioactive accidents and leakages has long been presented by environmental groups as a cause for opposition, as has the technical and social challenge of long-term waste management. A number of governments over the years, ranging from nations such as Germany to provinces such as British Columbia and Nova Scotia, have introduced policies specifically prohibiting uranium mining and/or nuclear reactor development.

Available evidence suggests that these opponents are generally engaging in exercises of political hypocrisy. No energy source is without environmental and social consequence. Fossil fuel combustion has links to smog, acid rain and attendant health concerns. Wind energy requires large land masses, creates noise pollution and poses a hazard to birds — all to generate minor amounts of unreliable power. Hydro-power requires large-scale flooding, ecosystem destruction and resultant mercury releases. Even supposedly clean ethanol is proving to be disruptive to world food prices while presenting a marginal (or by some studies, negative) benefit regarding greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions relative to gasoline. On the health and safety front, in terms of worker and population impacts, few if any major energy sources measure up to the record of nuclear energy.

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Western Australia Lifts Uranium Ban – by Marilyn Scales

Marilyn Scales is a field editor for the Canadian Mining Journal, Canada’s first mining publication. She is one of Canada’s most senior mining commentators.

The six-year ban on uranium mining in Western Australia has been lifted, newly elected Premier Colin Barnett announced on Nov. 17, 2008. New mining leases will no longer exclude the hunt for uranium.

Australia is the world’s second largest producer of uranium (19.7 million lb U3O8 in 2006), behind Canada (26.7 million lb). Between them they account for half the world’s production. With the hunt on again for new uranium producers in Western Australia, that country may give Canada a run for the its top-ranked status.

The change in policy will benefit companies with advanced projects in Western Australia.

Canada’s Cameco Corp. looks like it was ahead of the curve when it partnered with Mitsubishi Development (30%) to pay US$346.5 million to buy the promising Kintyre deposit earlier this year. The project, located 1,250 km northeast of Perth, is in the advanced exploration stage. The original uranium discovery was made in 1985, and former owner Rio Tinto eventually outlined eight separate deposits. Cameco estimates that the Kintyre project may host between 62 million and 80 million lb of U3O8 with grades averaging 0.3% to 0.4% U3O8. These numbers do not comply with 43-101 definitions.

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Cameco Corporation President and CEO Gerald W. Grandey – Speech at the BMO Global Metal and Mining Conference

Cameco Corporation President and CEO Gerald W. GrandeyGood morning.

Thank you for the invitation to speak to you today. I am delighted to be here in Florida, one of the states leading the way in the drive for new nuclear generating capacity in the United States.

2008 marks Cameco’s 20th anniversary. And while history has delivered its ups and downs, the future of Cameco and the nuclear industry are exciting and robust. Today, I want to impress upon you the strength of Cameco and my enthusiasm for our ability to address current challenges, seize opportunities and pursue our vision to be a dominant nuclear energy company.

Cameco is built upon an unparalleled uranium asset base, vertically integrated operations, a long-term contracting strategy, and a team of the industry’s most talented and dedicated people. We are an industry leader, delivering increasing returns amidst the growing momentum in the nuclear industry.

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Cameco Corporation President and CEO Gerald W. Grandey – An Introduction

Gerald W. Grandey was appointed chief executive officer of Cameco Corporation on January 1, 2003.  He joined Cameco in 1993 as senior vice-president marketing and corporate development. Prior appointments include vice-chair and chief executive officer of The Concord Mining Business Unit and president of Energy Fuels, an American coal and uranium mining company. Grandey practiced …

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Excerpt from Michael Barnes New Book – More Than Free Gold: Mineral Exploration in Canada Since World War II

Pronto Mine, Rio Algom - Elliot Lake 1958The World Wants Yellowcake (Uranium)

Among some people uranium gets a bad rap due to its use as the explosive material for atomic weapons and yet these folks tend to forget that it has most beneficial uses for mankind, principally as the fuel for nuclear reactors which deliver about 15% of the country’s electricity. Canada is currently the largest producer of uranium in the world, although Australia has the larger proportion of the world’s known deposits. In 2006 of the seventeen countries that mined the element, Canada produced 28%, followed by Australia with 23%. The term ‘yellowcake’ was originally given to uranium concentrate, although the colour and texture today can range from anything through dull yellow to almost black.

Early interest in uranium in Canada took a back seat to the work of Gilbert and Charles LaBine who discovered radium at Great Bear Lake in the Northwest Territories in 1930.

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