Nfld. & Labrador

Lift Labrador uranium ban: residents

Some people in one Labrador community that could benefit from uranium mining are calling on Inuit Nunatsiavut government of northern Labrador to end its three-year ban on uranium mining now.

Some people in one Labrador community that could benefit from uranium mining are calling on the Inuit Nunatsiavut government of northern Labrador to end its three-year ban on uranium mining now.

They say that since the ban was narrowly approved in 2008 the community has gone from boom town to ghost town.

At the peak of exploration, the drone of helicopters and float planes continued from dawn to dusk.

"All we can hear now is the wind and the songbirds," said Glen Sheppard, a member of the Nunatsiavut Assembly representing Postville. "If it weren't for the number of homes around, you'd think you're at your [summer] cabin."

Sheppard said that since the moratorium almost half the town's residents have become unemployed and that 75 per cent of the people in the community want the moratorium lifted early.

"People were making three times the wages they earn on make-work projects," said Sheppard. "We see exploration as a saviour to the economy here in Postville."

Since the vote many young people have left to find work elsewhere and the families that have stayed are struggling.

Laura Jacque used to make $300 a day working as a cook for a mining company. Now she works two jobs, including one at the local takeout, for much less.

"I have three kids. It's hard. I'm a single parent. Without mining there is no future here," said Jacque. The Nunatsiavut government told CBC News it has no plan to review the moratorium until next year   Even then, there is no guarantee the ban will be lifted.

Labrador's Nunatsiavut government narrowly passed a controversial bill in April 2008 that prohibits uranium mining on Inuit-owned land for three years.

The moratorium passed in the Nunatsiavut assembly by a vote of 8-7. According to the bill it is scheduled to remain in place until March 31, 2011, when it will be revisited by northern Labrador's Inuit government.

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 in March 2008, but further debate and voting was postponed until April 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 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.