| Aug 30, 2007

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Feature Article - August 30, 2007

Candidates deepen positions on mining in LFL&A

By Jeff Green

A veritable media scrum took place along a lonely stretch of road north of Clarendon this week, with CTV, Global, CKWS and CBC radio vying for a word from OPP officials and local Algonquin leaders.

It’s fair to say the attention is unprecedented. The events at the Robertsville mine and the adjacent 30,000 acres encapsulate concerns about surface and subsurface property rights, uranium exploration and mining, and aboriginal land issues, and they have been the subject of particular interest to four men: The candidates for MPP in Lanark, Frontenac, Lennox and Addington.


Ross Sutherland (NDP), Ian Wilson (Liberal) and Randy Hiller (Conservative) all appeared at an all-candidates meeting focusing on the Ontario Mining Act in late July. Since then, they have all been thinking long and hard about where they stand in regards to what is happening in North Frontenac as they prepare for the official election campaign, which kicks off on September 10.

Rolly Montpellier, (Green Party) is late entering the campaign, but he brought his party leader, Frank DeJong, to the Robertsville mine on August 27.

DeJong said that Green Party policy calls for a “moratorium on uranium exploration and mining in Ontario, as is in place in New Brunswick. We also call for subsurface and surface rights to be re-united.”

Elaborating on their position regarding uranium mining, DeJong said that there is only a 20-year supply of high grade uranium, such as is mined in Northern Saskatchewan, “and after that, low grade sources, like the ones in North Frontenac, will be used. But it takes so much fossil fuel to process low grade uranium that it would be an economic and environmental disaster.”

Ross Sutherland (NDP) was the first candidate to take a stance in support of the Algonquin occupation, coming to the site on June 29. He also called for a moratorium on uranium mining and nuclear power generation.

Recently, Peter Tabuns, the NDP environment critic, called for Dalton McGuinty to cede to Algonquin demands in North Frontenac and agree to a moratorium on uranium exploration.

"Why is it so hard for Dalton McGuinty to stand up for fairness and a clean environment?" asked Tabuns. "The Ontario government could have and should have resolved this issue a long time ago. Instead Dalton McGuinty has dithered and delayed. Dalton McGuinty promised to stand up for First Nations and the environment. He's failed on both counts.”

Ian Wilson (Liberal) sent a letter of support to CCAMU (Concerned Citizens Against Mining Uranium), a non-aboriginal group that has sprung up in support of the occupation and against uranium exploration.

In it, he said “As the whole world becomes increasingly concerned about the natural environment this seems to be an opportune time for the government of Ontario to declare a moratorium on mineral exploration in Lanark, Frontenac, and Lennox & Addington. This area is a natural carbon offset for the pollution caused by the large urban centres of Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal that surround it.”

He also said he will work with CCAMU to “bring this matter to the government’s attention.

Randy Hillier (Conservative) worked with LFL&A Federal MP Scott Reid on a joint position paper entitled “Ontario Mining Law is a mess”. In it they call for a unification of surface and subsurface rights. In regard to the situation in North Frontenac, they wrote:

“The provincial government is so aggressive in promoting mining that it even permits claims to be staked and exploration work to continue where all other economic activity has been halted, on Crown lands that are subject to aboriginal land disputes. In northern Frontenac County, the unresolved Algonquin land claim has caused the province to refuse all requests for the sale or lease of small parcels of Crown land to permit recreation and tourism development. But exploration for uranium continues unabated.

“This recently led to a standoff led in part by Algonquins and in part by local property owners.”

The leadership of the parties that both Wilson and Hillier represent have not been as forthcoming as the candidates in regards to these issues.

There is nothing in the Conservative Party platform about mining rights, and John Tory has made no comment on the ongoing situation in North Frontenac.

For his part, Premier Dalton McGuinty has yet to respond to repeated requests for a meeting by the Shabot and Ardoch Algonquins.

In light of the latest court proceedings, Ross Sutherland has called for McGuinty to act.

“McGuinty’s inaction is responsible for the court injunction and the heightened tension in North Frontenac Township,” said Sutherland. “He has the power under the Mining Act to place an immediate moratorium on uranium exploration. This would remove the need for an occupation,” he wrote in a media release this week.

(The complete text of the articles and letters referred to in this article are posted at frontenacnews.ca, including the “op-ed” piece submitted by Scott Reid and Randy Hiller)

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