Inuit drop long-held moratorium against uranium mining in Nunavut 
Tue Sep 18, 6:30 PM 

By Bob Weber

(CP) - Canada's main Inuit organization has dropped a long-held moratorium on 
uranium mining in the Arctic, removing one obstacle to developing potentially 
rich deposits of the radioactive metal. 

But as industrial pressure heats up over areas that include crucial caribou 
calving grounds, some say the organization, Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. (NTI), isn't 
even thinking about protecting environmentally sensitive landscapes. 

"They're not even giving passing consideration to the possibility of special 
places in Nunavut," said Monte Hummel of the World Wildlife Fund, which has 
been heavily involved in the issue. 

Uranium mining has become a hot topic across Canada. 

Last summer, a northern regulatory board put a halt to all such exploration on 
lands just east of Great Slave Lake, citing vehement opposition from local 

On Tuesday, Green Party Leader Elizabeth May said she supports efforts to block 
a potential uranium mine in eastern Ontario and added Canada should impose a 
moratorium on the industry. 

And NTI, which administers the Nunavut Land Claim, announced Tuesday that it 
was abandoning a moratorium approved by Inuit voters in 1989. The moratorium 
was put in place after a German company attempted to develop a uranium mine 
around Baker Lake. 

NTI vice-president James Eetoolook has called the silvery metal taboo. No 

"Northerners' thinking is changing as we go along," he said. "The world's 
changing all the time and we're part of the world." 

Driven by soaring uranium prices, dozens of companies are prodding the tundra 
around Baker Lake. They include French giant Areva, which has about 13,000 
hectares of mineral claims in the area. 

Eetoolook said mining offers Nunavummiut their best chance at economic 
opportunity. The territory's population, he points out, is the fastest-growing 
in Canada. 

"What are we going to do with those people? Where are they going to work?" 

NTI's new policy, he says, stipulates uranium development can only be done for 
peaceful purposes, must offer benefits to Inuit and must protect the health of 
both the land and the people. 

Uranium projects will happen, he says. Inuit - and nobody else - must take 
control over them. "We are capable of managing it properly," he said. 

But Hummel said all Canadians deserve a voice because the consequences of 
uranium mining are national in scope. 

"They're making a decision that involves very long-term waste products that not 
only Inuit but all Canadians are going to have to deal with," he said. "I 
wonder if they'll say butt out when it comes to making federal contributions to 
cleaning it up?" 

As well, Hummel points out, the policy contains no mention of protecting areas 
in advance of development. 

The area south of Baker Lake is also the calving ground for the Beverly caribou 
herd, crucial to both the culture and daily diet of local people. 

"It would be reassuring to hear from Inuit that there could be some areas in 
Nunavut where mining is not the highest use," Hummel said. 

[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]

Native News North
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