July 18, 2005

Ottawa, Saskatchewan to share cleanup costs for former uranium mine sites

The federal government has committed to sharing with Saskatchewan the cleanup costs for certain abandoned uranium mine sites in the northern part of the province. The arrangement will initially focus on the former Gunnar and Lorado mine and mill sites near Uranium City. A private company which still owns part of the Lorado site has also agreed to contribute to the overall project costs.

The federal Treasury Board recently authorized Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) to negotiate a Memorandum of Agreement with the province, based on 50-50 cost sharing. The provincial government estimates the total cleanup funding at $24 million; Saskatchewan's Finance Minister, Harry Van Mulligen, announced the $12-million provincial contribution last year.

"Our officials have provided the federal government with details as to our cost estimate for the project," said Northern Affairs Minister Buckley Belanger "We are now ready to negotiate the details of an agreement as soon as possible." Pending negotiation of a cost-shared agreement for cleanup of the abandoned uranium mine sites, the province has taken preliminary measures to ensure site safety and to assess the overall dimensions of the work to be done.

Belanger added that northern communities will be consulted about the federal-provincial negotiations. "The project will provide experience and expertise that can be applied to future mine site and environmental reclamation projects in Saskatchewan and across Canada. To that end, we will continue our consultations with northerners about design of both the environmental assessment and actual remediation work," he said.

The Gunnar and Lorado uranium mines were active from the 1950s until the early 1960s. Operated by the private sector, the facilities contributed to the Canadian government's national security effort at that time.

When the sites were closed, there was no regulatory framework in place to ensure proper management of the waste from these mining activities, and the companies that produced the uranium no longer exist. Over time, contamination from the sites has had negative environmental impacts on local soils and lakes.

The project will be carried out in three phases. Phase 1, lasting at least two years, will consist of an environmental assessment under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act and an application to the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission for a project licence. Phase 2- the actual site cleanup-will take at least three years. Phase 3 will consist of follow-up monitoring of the site to ensure that waste produced as a result of the mining activity is properly treated and managed.

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