| Oct 30, 2008

Oct 30/08 - Pray for the Land

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Feature Article - October 30, 2008 Pray for the LandBy Jeff Green

A group of rain-soaked people gathered by the side of the Robertsville road last weekend for a two-day “Pray for the Land” event.

They received an advisory from the OPP a couple of days before the event telling them that a court injunction remains in place and they could face court action for gathering within 200 metres of the gate of the beleaguered Robertsville mine.

Employees of Frontenac Ventures Corporation created a berm on the road allowance in front of the gate for the occasion, and several company trucks arrived at the site on Saturday morning for the first time in weeks to mark the company’s continued presence on the site.

“We had Port-a-Potties delivered to the front of the gate for the weekend, but the company we rented them from received a phone call telling them they faced a lawsuit if they left them there, so they came and got them,” said Mireille Lapointe, acting chief of the Ardoch Algonquin First Nation, who organized the event.

Since the event could not take place on the road allowance in front of the mine gate, the people gathered in a hollow across the road.

It rained - no it poured all day on Saturday. Still, a delegation of Quakers showed up to pray, as did a United Church minister and some parishioners, and members of the Christian Peacemakers. The Ardoch Algonquin First Nation held a sunrise ceremony that morning.

Bob Lovelace of the Ardoch Algonquins promoted the event but in the end he was unable to attend because he underwent quadruple bypass surgery two days before the event. He wrote a letter to the participants before his surgery: “I still believe that this coming weekend is the most important expression of our collective concern for our future and the land. This is a non-confrontational event, non-violent and welcoming of all people. Celebrate the great gifts of life and happiness that are ours as a human family who have been given the most beautiful and diverse of worlds to live in. Find in your prayers for the Land a path to follow and courage to walk that path.”

The Pray for the Land event did not lead to any kind of confrontation. Police presence was limited to a couple of drive-bys and when it was all over, everyone, Frontenac Ventures included, went home for the winter.

Although Frontenac Ventures President George White says the company will be back in the spring to continue its exploration for uranium, the current economic climate suggests that money to explore what for years has been considered a marginal property may be hard to come by. The price of uranium on the open market is down to $45 a pound from a high of $140 18 months ago, and future price projections don’t see any sharp rise in the price over the next six months.

The locals have seen this before. The price of uranium goes up, the companies come. They clear brush, they drill holes. The price drops, the companies leave, the land goes back to nature. The coming of winter '09 could mark the end of the fourth or fifth wave of activity in the area in the past 50 years.

But this time is different from the others because there are many loose ends.

There are lawsuits underway over the occupation that effectively shut down the project for four months last year. Where these will go, it is hard to say, but it is worth noting that Frontenac Ventures has had full access to their site for the past year, so if indeed, as some suspect, this project is dying, it will be hard to prove that it was the occupation in the summer of '07 that killed it.

Yes, the company has spent a lot of money on lawyers, perhaps $250,000 or more, but that is a far cry from the $77 million figure they floated when they launched their lawsuit some 15 months ago.

But the issues that have been raised over the past year and a half have not been settled.

As far as the land in question is concerned nothing has really been settled. Questions remain. Should the Algonquins have a veto over development? If so, which Algonquins? Should the private landowners have the right to refuse mining exploration? Should uranium be treated differently than any other mineral, even at the initial stages of exploration?

So many questions to ponder over the long, quiet winter.

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