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Questions and Answers

Why is the Government of Nunavut holding discussions on uranium mining at this time?

Nunavummiut have opinions and concerns about uranium mining in our territory. Guided by the principles of Aajiiqatigiinniq and Ikajuqtigiinniq, the intent of these discussions is to assist the Government of Nunavut to develop a position and policy after Nunavummiut have had an opportunity to express their views. Everyone is encouraged to learn about uranium by reading the information on this website. Then, participate in the process by telling us what you think about uranium in Nunavut.  

Who makes the decisions on uranium mining and what is the Government of Nunavut’s role?

Final decisions on mining development in Nunavut are made by the respective land owner. These decisions, however, are only made after consultations are coordinated in accordance to the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement (NLCA). For example, the Nunavut Impact Review Board (NIRB) carries out an assessment of any potential development projects in Nunavut prior to any approvals. When doing its assessment, NIRB asks the GN and other stakeholders for their input giving the Government of Nunavut an important role in the co-management process.

While the GN does not make the decisions on Crown Land in Nunavut, the GN policy that will be developed following these public forums will guide the Government’s input into any consultations. In addition, while all of the land currently considered for uranium development is owned by the federal government and/or Inuit organizations, the GN remains ready to begin negotiations to devolve jurisdictional responsibility for those lands owned by the federal government.

How will the Nunavut land use planning process be impacted by these consultations?

Currently, the Nunavut Planning Commission is drafting and preparing public consultations on a Nunavut wide Land Use Plan. The Government of Nunavut and the Government of Canada, under Article 11.5.8 of the NLCA, will need to approve the final Land Use Plan for Nunavut. The GN’s policy on uranium development will help to inform the approval process and guide our decision making.

What is Uranium?

Uranium is a metal that is common in the Earth’s crust, just like copper, lead and zinc. Uranium is different than these other metals, however, because it slowly changes into other metals. This process is called radioactive decay. As uranium decays to other metals it emits energy known as radiation, as well as radon gas. This process of radioactive decay occurs naturally in uranium.

What is uranium used for?

Uranium mined in the world today is commonly used as fuel for generating electricity in nuclear power plants. It is also used for specialized medical equipment. Uranium can be used to produce nuclear weapons, but uranium mined in Canada cannot be exported for this use.

What makes mining uranium different than mining other metals?

The mining process for uranium is very similar to many other metals. It can be mined in underground mines or open pit mines. Uranium mining produces tailings and other wastes that need to be treated and stored for long periods of time, like the tailings of other mines such as copper, nickel or zinc. Uranium mining is subject to additional regulations due to the unique safety hazards of radiation and radon gas. Safety measures are used to reduce miners’ exposure to radon gas and radiation.

What is radiation?

Radiation is a form of energy. This energy, radiation, can pass through many materials. Everyone is exposed to radiation from both natural and man-made sources, including radon gas, cosmic rays, medical procedures (X Rays) and naturally radioactive metals.  

Where is uranium mined in Canada?

In Canada, uranium is currently mined only in Saskatchewan.  

Are there any provinces or territories that will not allow uranium mining?

Yes. British Columbia, Nova Scotia will not allow uranium mining. In Newfoundland and Labrador, the Nunatsiavut government imposed a three year ban on uranium mining on land covered under the Labrador Inuit Land Claims Agreement beginning in March 2008.

Source: Uranium in Nunavut Review. 2011. Golder Associates Ltd.

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