Several months late, Strateco finally made their way to Mistissini and Chibougamau to present the results of their environmental impact study on May 25-26.
The mining development corporation was supposed to make their presentation 45 days after the environmental impact study (EIS) was released last fall but it was repeatedly delayed.
At 2 pm, Strateco’s CEO & President Guy Hébert gave his presentation to representatives from various branches of the provincial and federal governments (including Health Canada), members of the Cree Regional Authority, the Band Council, environmentalist groups and community members. Though the presentation only lasted 90 minutes, the question-and-answer session continued well into the night.
Len Taylor, a member of the Mich Cini Coalition that is fervently against any uranium development in Eeyou Istchee, said there were many in the audience who voiced their concerns about the project. Taylor said many of those concerns went unanswered.
Taylor came equipped with his own research based on scientific books and papers he had read on uranium and asked a series of questions pertaining to the evidence that he presented showing that uranium projects have a negative impact on human health.
“It seems they wanted to stonewall me and not offer answers to my questions, but our people need to know,” said Taylor.
Ramsey Hart, the Canadian coordinator for MiningWatch Canada, a non-profit group that monitors mining projects, was also in the audience as his organization is one of the few to receive a grant from the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) for an independent review of the EIS.
According to Hart, there were numerous problems with Strateco’s presentation, with Health Canada and many of the attending experts indicating that there were a great deal of inconsistencies and deficiencies in the EIS.
“There isn’t really enough in those reports to base a decision on and one of the key weaknesses is the concept of a uranium mine. Strateco’s response was a 15-minute-long cartoon video that showed what a potential uranium mine might look like, but it was total fluff,” said Hart.
Hart said he had concerns with many issues that Strateco was presenting from the EIS and the lack of data when it came to explaining exactly how their water quality treatment system which consisted of diagrams but no data on how it would actually work among other issues.
Hart also pointed out that the proposed road that Strateco said they would build to the exploration project was not even included in the EIS and that drew concern as the plan is to build the road out of waste rock and this could have potential risks.
What stood out most for Hart was an address that Elder Thomas Coon, a member of the Cree Trappers Association, made to Strateco and the panels asking if there was any way that the people of Mistissini could receive some kind of funding to hire their own team of experts to asses the situation because “there are two sides to every coin.”
According to Hart, Coon was given a flat out “No” because $40,000 had already been provided by Strateco through the CNSC for independent reviews and that funding had already gone out to organizations that applied for it during the month it was available last fall. Coon was also told that this funding should have been enough.
“There were two pots. There was a pot for First Nations and then there was a pot for other stakeholders. The $40,000 was for First Nations, but it’s really not much money if you’re hiring top-notch consultants to review hundreds of pages of documentation,” said Hart.
Hart said that at the community meeting, many were upset about not really being able to have the time or resources to review the information adequately. In his opinion, the presentation just “glossed” over the project while stating that there would be absolutely no problems.
In terms of getting funding to hire experts on uranium mining, Taylor said his group too had sought out Strateco to see if they would provide funding, but they never heard back.
The panel of experts, health officials and members of government presented Strateco with a series of 90 questions during the meeting that are posted on the CNSC’s website. Strateco is expected to be able to answer all of these questions when they return to Mistissini and Chibougamau for the second phase of consultation in September.