Nfld. & Labrador

Labrador Inuit vote for uranium mining ban

Labrador's Nunatsiavut government narrowly passed a controversial bill Tuesday that prohibits uranium mining on Inuit-owned land for three years.

Labrador's Nunatsiavut government narrowly passed a controversial bill Tuesday that prohibits uranium mining on Inuit-owned land for three years.

The moratorium, which passed 8-7, goes into effect immediately and will stay in place until March 31, 2011 when it will be revisited, according to a news release.

The ban applies to the working, production, mining and development of uranium in Nunatsiavut, the land settlement area in northern Labrador. However, the Nunatsiavut government said it will still allow uranium exploration, and is willing to work with mining companies while the ban is in place. 

First reading of the bill was passed back in March, but further debate and voting was postponed until this week when the assembly met in Hopedale so members could have more time to consult their constituents.

After the delay was announced in March, energy companies had warned that if the bill passed it would kill the mining industry in the region. More than $70 million was spent on exploration in Labrador in 2007.

Shares of Aurora Energy Resources, which explores and develops potential uranium properties in coastal Labrador, plunged 34 per cent following the vote — dropping $1.77 to $3.50.

"We strongly believe that we can demonstrate to the Nunatsiavut government that uranium mining can be safely carried out, with the utmost care for the integrity of the environment," Aurora CEO Mark O'Dea said in a release.

Lands and Resources Minister William Barbour said after Tuesday's vote that the moratorium is not meant to be anti-uranium mining legislation — it's about being responsible.

It gives the newly-formed government more time to get its own land use plan and environmental assessment act in place, he said.

In the news release, Barbour acknowledged that the decision wasn't an easy one.

"The majority of those surveyed and consulted told us they are not comfortable, at this time, with seeing a mine and a mill developed. They told us they want assurances that the environment will be protected and there will be no risks  associated with a mine and a mill," he said in the statement.