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Uranium mining angers Saskatchewan natives

Diana Leis — October 1984

Wollaston Lake is a community of 600 people on the east side of Wollaston Lake in northeastern Saskatchewan. People here depend on the land for cash income from fishing and trapping and for food from berries, fish, waterfowl, caribou, moose, and other animals. There are few wage jobs for the Native population. Groceries and fuel are expensive, and people could not survive without the furs, food, and firewood from the bush.

Uranium mining and explorations are disrupting the lives of the 5000 people of Wollaston Lake and the ten neighbouring communities. Radioactive wastes from the Rabbit Lake uranium mine, 20 miles west of the Wollaston community, have been discharged into Wollaston Lake since 1975. Extensive explorations which have discovered at least 10 more ore bodies in this area have contaminated the environment and chased away animals. Eldorado Resources, a subsidiary of the federal crown corporation Eldorado Nuclear, is now developing the Collins Bay “B-Zone” orebody 6 miles north of Rabbit Lake. This orebody is under the water of Wollaston Lake. A dike of thin sheet steel pipes filled with earth has been constructed to con tain the lake from the open pit.

This dike will be removed after the 6 year mine operation. Radioactivity from the pit can spread to the lake by contact with the water and by travelling in the air. The ore and radioactive pit water will be hauled by truck and pumped through plastic pipes to the mill at Rabbit Lake for processing and treatment.

The wastes from processing (which remain radioactive for thousands of years) will be stored at the bottom of the old Rabbit Lake pit. No leakage proof liners will be installed, so radioactive contaminants will seep and leach into the groundwater which flows into Wollaston Lake. The water has been drained from the pit area and excavation of the open pit has begun. Mining is scheduled to begin by early 1985 at the “BZone. “

The people of Wollaston Lake opposed the opening of the Rabbit Lake mine at meetings held there with government and mining company officials in 1972 and 1977. They opposed “B-Zone” at public hearings held there and in La Ronge, Saskatchewan in 1981. In June 1984, people again voiced opposition and concern at a slidetape presentation on the dangers Jf uranium mining attended by Jver 80 residents.

Joseph Besskaystare, the Chief Jf the Lac La Hache Indian Band Jf Wollaston Lake, recalls the 1977 meeting. “Those people were talking about employing all the young people at the mine and paying royalties to the people. They were going to. make a big store here, but I told them no to the mining because of what it might do to the lake. I told them, you guys can move around but us living here, we don’t want to move just because of the mine. In about 35 years you people will be finished mining. All the workers will be gone but we will still be here. After the water is contaminated, what are we going to live on? If I said okay to the royalties the money would stop coming when the mining is finished but the water would still be contaminated. “

Another Wollaston man, Councillor Martin Josie, says, “In 1948, the first time I came here, everything was plentifulnanimals, fish, plants. Even caribou, they used to come right to Wollaston. We didn’t have as much money, but we were happy because we had a nice place to live. Now because of the white people coming (such as the Department of Northern Saskatchewan, prospectors, and mining companies), the animals are becoming scarce. Even the moose is hard to kill now. Because of the mine the animals are not fit to eat. “

Uranium is used in nuclear power plants to produce eleetricitynand also to make nuclear weapons. The uranium that was used for the bombs that killed- 200,000 people in Hiroshima and Nagasaki may well have come from Port Radium in Canada. Saskatchewan uranium, is sold to the United States, West. Germany, and France: countries that produce nuclear weapons.

Two hundred people from Wollaston Lake have signed petitions opposing the Collins Bay B-Zone Deve!opment and all uranium explorations and developments in the Wollaston Lake area. The residents are hoping that many people from outside the communities will join them’ in their protest. Copies of the petition can be obtained from: Lac La Hache Band Administration, Wollaston Lake, Saskatchewan SOJ 3CO. Phone (306) xxx-xxxx or xxx-xxxx.