Ontario Algonquins suspend uranium site occupation
Two First Nations communities have temporarily left a prospective uranium mining site in eastern Ontario they have occupied since June after reaching an agreement with the Ontario government to begin mediation talks.
"We've removed much of our camp from inside the private property," Robert Lovelace, retired chief of the Ardoch Algonquin First Nation, saidFriday on behalf of the Ardoch and Shabot Obaadjiwan First Nations. "The reason we've done that is in good faith because we really do count on a good outcome from the mediation process."
The Algonquinswere trying to block a mining exploration company, Frontenac Ventures, from doing test drilling for uranium at the site near Sharbot Lake, about 60 kilometres north of Kingston.
The Algonquins say the site is on their land and they fear that uranium drilling could lead to environmental contamination.
Ontario has agreed to 12 weeks of mediation, although Lovelace did not know when negotiations were set to begin.But he said theAlgonquins are eager to get going. They hope the province will consider making changes to the Mining Act to leave less power to prospectors and more to property owners, he said.
Leaders of the two aboriginalcommunitieshad offered to temporarily suspend occupation of the site if the province agreed to mediation under certain conditions.
However, they said they would remain nearby to keep an eye on the site. On Friday, 100 people from the two First Nations and some of their non-native supporters were gathered along the road outside its closed gate.
Among them was Sheila Kittle, a local resident who has been helping supply the protesters with food and drinks.
"We intend to carry on a presence here to plug away for no uranium mining specifically in this area," she said.
The Algonquins are allowing Frontenac Ventures to do minor work at the site, but will not allow them to do any drilling.
The protesters began occupying the site on June 29, and would not leave until this week despite court injunctions granted in response to requests from the company. Theinjunctionsordered the Algonquinsoff the site and gave police the authority to arrest them.
The disputed siteincludes both private property and Crown land that is the subject of ongoing land claim negotiations.