SASKATOON, SK, Nov. 10, 2021 /CNW/ – This week, the Clearwater River Dene Nation (CRDN) served notice on the uranium industry and the Governments of Canada and Saskatchewan regarding the community’s grave concerns about the potential impacts and risks posed by an increasing number of uranium mining and milling projects and exploration activities occurring within its Traditional Lands.
Over the past few years, numerous mining companies have conducted uranium exploration and have proposed extensive development in the heart of CRDN’s Traditional Lands. This includes proposals for mines by NexGen Energy Ltd. and Fission Uranium Corp. and exploration activities by Denison Mines Corp., Standard Uranium, Purepoint Uranium, Cameco, UEX Uranium, Orano, Azincourt Energy, and other lease holders affiliated proponents. The Government of Saskatchewan has granted tenure and issued authorizations for exploratory activities in the absence of meaningful consultation with the CRDN.
CRDN General Manager Walter Hainault states, “contrary to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People (UNDRIP) and directives of the Supreme Court of Canada, governments have and continue to illegally permit uranium companies to run roughshod over our People, Traditional Lands and Treaty rights. As a result, we now have uranium mines being proposed in the Patterson Lake Area – the hub and heartland of our ancient and traditional lands“. The CRDN is the Indigenous Nation and Government in closest proximity to the ‘Patterson Corridor’ of interest to the uranium industry and the PLA.
The CRDN has commissioned an in-depth Indigenous Rights and Knowledge Study (IRKS). This has been developed through intense work and research with community Elders, trappers, hunters, fishers, youth and families which directly use and occupy the Patterson Lake Area (PLA), the area in which two major uranium and milling projects are now proposed. Chief Teddy Clark of the CRDN reports “that the study transmitted to industry groups and Crown agencies confirms:
- our People’s historic, intense and strong cultural connection to the PLA and project areas;
- our People continue to live in and rely upon our Traditional Lands and the PLA and the project areas;
- that our People can provide evidence of how they have been impacted and are being forced out of their traditional family hunting grounds by uranium mining activity;
- that the current level of uranium exploration and proposed mines/mills being proposed within the PLA are incompatible with CRDN’s rights, culture and way of life, and
- at this time, the vast majority of CRDN community members are not supportive of the overall level of uranium mining activity:
Clark adds, “CRDN continues with diplomacy to engage and consult with the companies and Crown in good faith, however, our community has certain limits and they feel that the line has been crossed with so many companies being granted rights to access and develop their ancient and sacred lands. There is no government mechanism in place to assess the cumulative impact of all of this development on our rights, way of life and our people’s needs. There is no defensible land use plan in place that determines where this activity should be prohibited, constrained or allowed only under the strictest of CRDN conditions. No Crown agency is dealing with this bigger picture. Crown failure to address this critical matter could result in a challenge to project approvals, substantial delay to the regulatory path, risks to the projects and stranded investment.
CRDN is now working to build on its initial community IRKS report. CRDN General Manager Walter Hainault ends, “we are now preparing for upcoming environmental assessment processes and regulatory hearings. Our People will be front and center and their voices will be heard and all of the issues, concerns and alternatives they bring forward must be addressed such as:
- our People’s ability to exercise their Treaty rights into the future;
- the practice, maintenance and transmission of our Denesuline culture;
- the protection of our way of life;
- our community members ability to put food on the table and make ends meet;
- the impact of the dispossession of our people being forced out of the Patterson Lake Area and other areas that lie at the heartland or core of our Traditional lands;
- risks posed to the Clearwater River Watershed which is critical to our people;
- the long-term risks posed to the environment and our People’s health should untested underground tailings management facilities fail over time allowing release of radio-toxic elements;
- the impact of the influx of people into work camps, drugs, alcohol, crime and violence which tend to accompany such resource developments;
- the impacts arising from required Highway 955 upgrades between the CRDN’s reserve and the PLA
- road access to the Patterson Corridor and the PLA which traverses the main CRDN community and reserve lands, and
- the cumulative impact of past, present and proposed uranium projects and exploration activities and human induced change on our Treaty rights, way of life and culture”
SOURCE Clearwater River Dene Nation