| Dec 06, 2007


Feature Article - December 6, 2007 Back toHome Feature Article - December 6, 2007 Mediation starts slowly in uranium dispute by Jeff Green

It wasn’t until Tuesday morning that all of the parties to a mediation process concerning uranium exploration in North Frontenac gathered at Katie’s Pub at the Sharbot Lake Country Inn. And even then the mediation began with baby steps.

The mediation had been scheduled for Monday December 3, but Tracey Pratt, a lawyer for Frontenac Ventures Corporation, and the mediator, Richard Moore, were not able to make it to Sharbot Lake because of a snow storm.

Representatives from the Ontario government, and the Ardoch and Shabot Obaadjiwaan First Nations, did meet on Monday. They discussed how the mediation will be funded, and listened to a presentation by Ardoch Algonquin Elder Bob Lovelace on the history of Algonquin and European settlement in the Ottawa Valley.

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On June 20, the Ardoch and Shabot Obaadjiwaan Algonquins occupied the Robertsville mine, a site that has been leased by Frontenac Ventures Corporation as a base camp for a 30,000 acre uranium exploration project. The land is claimed by the Algonquin communities since there never has been a treaty with Algonquins to cede the land to Canada or Ontario. The Algonquins wrote to Premier McGuinty, asking for the province to negotiate

Frontenac Ventures initiated a lawsuit, and eventually secured an injunction ordering the Algonquins to leave. When that did not happen, they initiated contempt of court proceedings. In early October Judge Cunningham of the Kingston Superior Court coaxed the parties to seek mediation, and delayed hearing the contempt of court proceedings until mid-February of next year. On or around November 5, Frontenac Ventures reclaimed the Robertsville mine site, and have initiated a 40-week exploration program, with test drilling set to begin in the 13th week if the program stays on schedule.

The date of drilling is important because the leadership of both Algonquin communities have vowed they will re-institute their blockade if and when the company attempts to bring a drilling rig on site.

It took until this week for mediation to begin in earnest, and negotiators came up with a meeting schedule that extends until February. Many of the details concerning the dates for negotiations, what will be discussed, or whether it will be an open or closed mediation process, have not been resolved. The protocol for monitoring Frontenac Ventures activities on the site has also not been finalised.

Steve Reynolds, the lawyer for the Shabot Obaadjiwaan First Nation, said he would prepare a proposed work plan for the next meeting, which is scheduled for December 17.

Meanwhile down in Toronto … Donna Dillman has now been at Queen’s Park for 10 days, as her vow to live on only liquids heads towards the 60-day mark. She is demanding that the government of Ontario conduct an inquiry into uranium mining before she will eat. Early in her stay she met with Premier McGuinty. She reported that he said he was “committed to maintaining the present level of 14,000 megawatts of electricity generated by nuclear”, and she responded to him by saying “Eighty percent of Canada's uranium is exported and the country has stockpiles estimated to last for 40 years at current levels of use.”

Since then several people have spoken out in support of Donna Dillman’s stance.

MPP Peter Tabuns, the NDP Environment critic, made a statement in the house early this week. He said, “The Ardoch Algonquin First Nation have repeatedly pointed out that the provincial government has failed to consult with them about uranium exploration on their lands. Communities across eastern Ontario warn how uranium exploration and mining will release contaminants into their drinking water supply, and farmland.”

Last week, rising in the House of Commons in Ottawa, MP Scot Reid made a comment concerning the Frontenac Ventures uranium exploration project and the mining act.

He said, “If the uranium deposit proves rich enough to warrant a mine, it will be the prospecting company, not the landowners, who will profit from selling the mineral rights. The land itself will be turned into an open pit mine and, in return, landowners will get essentially nothing”.

Finally, David Suzuki weighed in on the issue this week.

In a letter to Premier McGuinty, he said, “It appears that opening up uranium mines is part of the nuclear future [of Ontario], but they themselves have a terrible history of leaving a legacy of radioactive pollution. I know that in Frontenac County, there is potentially a large open pit uranium mine on what is the traditional territory of First Nations people. There is no way those lands should be exploited before settlement of the claims of FN people. I hope this is the government's plan.”

Eleven municipalities in Eastern Ontario have now passed motions requesting that the province declare a moratorium on uranium mining, including North, South, and Central Frontenac; Lanark Highlands; Tay Valley; the Town of Perth; and the City of Kingston.

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