February 9, 2004

Sask presses for federal commitment to cleanup of old uranium mine sites

The Saskatchewan government is continuing to press the federal government to accept its responsibilities for cleaning up former uranium mine sites in northern Saskatchewan. In an Update Report to the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC), the provincial government recommends measures to ensure continued environmental protection and public safety at the Lorado and Gunnar former uranium mine sites, as well as to advance progress toward their remediation. The federal Nuclear Safety and Control Act assigns the CNSC regulatory responsibility for nuclear facilities in Canada.

The Lorado uranium mine/mill site, about 8 kilometres (km) south of Uranium City, ceased operation in 1960. Public records maintained by the provincial government indicate the owner of the former Lorado site is EnCana West, and not the Saskatchewan government. Studies have also confirmed that a former federal Crown corporation, Eldorado Mining and Refining, contributed to the deposit of tailings at Lorado as well. The report recommends that the CNSC consider pursuing discussions with both EnCana West and the federal government concerning remediation plans for the Lorado site.

In addition, the provincial government is seeking a federal commitment to participate in the remediation of the former Gunnar mine/mill site, about 25 km southwest of Uranium City, in the Athabasca region. The estimated cost to clean up the Gunnar site, and some 40 other smaller former satellite uranium mine sites in the area, is about $23 to $24 million over eight years.

"What is needed immediately is for the federal government to accept its historical, moral, and current responsibilities, and to commit funding for the proposed work. We are encouraged by the federal government's specific commitment to address such contaminated sites, as stated in the recent Speech from the Throne," said Northern Affairs Minister Buckley Belanger.

"We believe northerners can assume a partnership role in the decommissioning, planning and delivery process that would include training and employment opportunities, and result in a new company that could, in time, service similar remediation needs across Canada and beyond," Belanger added.

The report says the province will continue its due diligence investigation of the Gunnar site. Once the results are available, provincial officials and will meet with the CNSC to determine appropriate next steps for that site.

Environment Minister David Forbes noted that "Saskatchewan will continue to monitor the sites. We are committed to continuing to assess and to address environmental risks and any threats to public safety associated with these sites."

More information is available from Richard Turkheim, Saskatchewan Northern Affairs, 306/787-2143, E-mail rturkehim@sna.gov.sk.ca.

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