| Jun 11, 2009

Back to HomeFeature Article - June 11, 2009 Two years later, a return to RobertsvilleBy Jeff Green

Members of the Ardoch Algonquin First Nation will be returning to the gate of the Robertsville mine site on June 28, two years after the start of an occupation that lasted almost 4 months.

But the Pray for the Land event will take place entirely on the road allowance, according to Bob Lovelace, and will not involve blocking access to the site.

The Ardoch Algonquins are inviting members of all faith communities to join with them in the day of prayer, and are hoping there will be a Mass as well as a Muslim call to prayer as part of the event, in addition to the planned sweat lodge ceremonies.

“Pray for the Land is an expression of our connection to all of the people that are concerned about the environment. Every spiritual faith has a belief that the earth is a sacred place, that it's a gift from the creator, and we are given directions to preserve it and look after it. That's the message of the day,” Lovelace said.

A lot has happened in the two years since the occupation, which featured the coming together of the Ardoch and Shabot Obaadjiwan First Nations in common cause after years of acrimony over the respective communities' approach to the Algonquin Land Claims process.

The Shabot Obaadjiwan signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) late last fall with Frontenac Ventures Corporation, the company that is pursuing uranium exploration on a site that is accessed through the Robertsville mine, where they lease office space. The MOU allows for drilling on the site, which is something that the Ardoch Algonquins continue to oppose.

On February 26, 2009 in an article published in Reuters, Frontenac Ventures claimed to have found a large “Alaskite type uranium deposit”, based on samples that were gathered in the fall.

“The discovery of a large new zone was made during late fall 2008. Forty bags (500 lb.) of bedrock samples, ranged from a high of 8.05 lb./ton to 0.25 lb./ton, with an average grade of 1.77 lb./ton,” said the article.

Exploration, including repeated drilling programs, has taken place in the vicinity since the 1960s, but has never before yielded enough of a uranium resource to tempt a mining company to buy into the property.

Uranium was mined at both Elliott Lake and in the Bancroft region, until the 1990s. Talk of re-opening mines in those locations has heated up over the past two years, although the worldwide recession has had an impact.

Pele Mountain Resources, for example, slowed down its plans at its proposed Eco Ridge mine near Elliott Lake late last year.

“Pele announced the postponement of its pre-feasibility study and certain components of the permitting process as cost-cutting measures, in response to difficult market conditions,” said a Pele news release in February.

The spot uranium price is hovering at around $50 per pound, well under $90, where it stood when Frontenac Ventures Corporation began staking claims in North and Central Frontenac in the spring of 2006.

The Robertsville protest has had an impact on mining and aboriginal politics in Ontario, leading to provisions for consultation with aboriginal communities in the revamped Ontario Mining Act, which was tabled in the Ontario Legislature just weeks ago.

But the changes don't just fall short of what the Ardoch Algonquins would like to see; they miss the mark entirely, according to spokesperson Bob Lovelace. “If I could use an analogy, the new legislation is like telling a rapist they have to use condoms,” he said. “What would really make a difference is a policy that requires free, prior and informed consent from the citizenry before mining activity commences.”

Specifically, in terms of the aboriginal consultations in the new Mining Act, Lovelace said, “They basically pay lip service to the Supreme Court decisions on consultation.”

Pray for the Land will take place during the day on June 28.

Another event, presented by the Concerned Citizens Against Mining Uranium, featuring a community dinner and dance with the popular Perth band Beetlejuice, will also take place at the Maberly Hall on June 28. Tickets are $20 at the door

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