key lake, sk

An anti-nuclear activist says concerns have been raised about the health of wildlife in Saskatchewan's north, following a report that a caribou had wandered into a radioactive tailings pond at a uranium mine earlier in the year.

Pat McNamara has been in the north talking about issues related to the nuclear energy industry, especially waste material.

McNamara explained that on April 22, coincidentally Earth Day, a caribou wandered through a fence and into a tailings pond at Cameco's Key Lake mine.

The pond holds material associated with the mining operations.

The animal spent several hours in the water and McNamara claims northern residents are worried about how the animal may have been affected.

McNamara said he believes people are afraid to pursue the matter, because the uranium mining industry plays a vital role in the area's economy.

"People are afraid for their jobs," he said. "Both the people that work at the mines, and the people who have family and friends at the mines."

Gord Struthers, a spokesman for Cameco, confirmed the company knew about the caribou in the water but is confident no harm would come to it.

Struthers explained that the pond does contain radioactive material and various heavy metals, but there is no danger.

"You would have to be chronically exposed to the water in that pond before you experience any health effects at all," Struthers said.

He added the company consulted experts who said there was no risk to the animal or the environment over the caribou's dip.

He also said the breach in the fence has been repaired.

CBC News also checked with the industry regulator and learned it was satisfied with how Cameco dealt with what happened.

The Key Lake operation is located about 570 kilometres north of Saskatoon.

With files from CBC's Dan Kerslake