Nova Scotia stands up for uranium mining

Cigar Lake, in northern Saskatchewan, Canada, is the world’s highest-grade uranium mine. (Image courtesy of Cameco)

The Mining Association of Nova Scotia (MANS) will appear before the legislature’s natural resources committee Tuesday to address misconceptions about uranium and argue that the province’s uranium mining ban be lifted.

“Modern uranium mining is safe and environmentally-responsible, and Nova Scotia’s ban on it should be lifted” said Sean Kirby, Executive Director of MANS. 

“Uranium is an essential material that makes things like smoke detectors and cancer treatments possible.  It literally saves lives.  We all benefit from uranium mining in other jurisdictions and there is no reason we should not allow it here.”

“Saskatchewan has been one of the top suppliers of uranium globally since the 1950s,” said Kirby.  “If uranium caused the problems that some allege, the people of Saskatchewan would tell us so.  Instead, 82% of people in Saskatchewan support uranium mining.”  

Uranium has a wide range of uses, including:

  • Radiation therapy to treat cancer. 15,000 radiation therapy treatments are done in Canada each year and half of Nova Scotians will benefit from nuclear medicine in their lifetime.
  • Providing the key component in smoke detectors.
  • Nuclear energy, which provides 15% of Canada’s electricity and which generates zero greenhouse gas emissions.  Many scientists and environmentalists have argued that nuclear power is essential to fighting climate change.

Because uranium exploration is banned and the province is not proactively increasing our knowledge of uranium occurrences, homes are sometimes built in areas with elevated uranium levels.  This can expose Nova Scotians to two serious public health risks:  

  • Higher levels of uranium in well water; and
  • Radon gas, a naturally-occurring gas that is the second leading cause of lung cancer.  It is estimated that 114 Nova Scotians die each year from it.

Nova Scotia has many documented occurrences of uranium but has had a moratorium on uranium exploration and mining since 1981. 

An interdepartmental committee of government officials recommended in 1994 that the ban be lifted, saying there was no scientific evidence that the environment or public would be harmed by uranium mining. 

The majority of the committee members represented Nova Scotia Environment and the Department of Health.  The report can be found here.

Nova Scotia’s mining and quarrying industry employs 5500 Nova Scotians, mainly in rural areas.

Sean Kirby is Executive Director of the Mining Association of Nova Scotia.

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