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Strateco Resources Inc. Uranium Mine in The Matoush Project, Canada


Description:

Strateco Resources Inc. Uranium Mine – The Matoush Project is a Canadian mining development project located in the Otish Mountains of Northern Québec, approximately 275 kilometres north of Chibougamau and 210 kilometres northeast of Mistissini [1]. 

The goal of this project is to mine high quality uranium from the Northern Quebec region to supply future growing demand for nuclear power, from countries such as China and India. Strateco Resources has a 60% interest in the project consisting of 590 claims covering a total area of 31,195 hectares (312 square kilometres). 

Opposition to this project is derived mainly from the Grand Council of Cree’s in nearby Mistissini, Quebec, which is the largest Cree community in Northern Quebec. The James Bay Cree claim that development of this uranium mining project will adversely affect the previous undisturbed ecology of the Otish Mountain, Issues of concern raised by the projects opponents include the risk of water contamination, land degradation, deforestation, disturbances to indigenous land, and adverse effects for Northern Boreal Woodland Caribou.

The Matoush project was put on hold in 2013, when a change in provincial government occurred, and the newly elected Parti Quebecoise imposed a moratorium on all uranium mining activities until an environmental review could be conducted on all major uranium mining activities in the Province of Quebec [2]. The 2013 moratorium was hailed by the Grand Council of the Cree who view it as a temporary reprieve from invasive development laid out by the Charest government in the Plan Nord. 

Since the moratorium,  Strateco Resources filed a lawsuit against the Government of Quebec demanding $190 million for all the lost money that was sunk into the project over 8 years.  [3]. 

The Matoush Project has a long history going back to 1980, where the uranium prospect was discovered by Uranerz Exploration and Mining Ltd. (Uranerz). Uranerz continued exploratory drilling and sampling in the region until 1985, when prices for uranium declined and the prospect was deemed unfeasible. Following a discovery by the Ashton Diamonds/Soquem joint venture in 2002, about 70 km north of Matoush, the western portion of the Otish Basin experienced a staking rush and what is now the Matoush property was acquired by Ditem Exploration Inc. (Ditem). Ditem optioned the property to Strateco Resources Inc. in 2005 and they began large-scale operations in 2006. 

Basic Data

Name of conflict:Strateco Resources Inc. Uranium Mine in The Matoush Project, Canada
Country:Canada
State or province:Québec
(municipality or city/town)Baie-James
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)

Source of Conflict

Type of conflict: 1st level:Mineral Ores and Building Materials Extraction
Type of conflict: 2nd level :Uranium extraction
Specific commodities:Land
Water
Uranium

Project Details and Actors

Project details:

Strateco Resources Inc. Uranium Mine – The Matoush Project is a Canadian mining development project involving the extraction of uranium on Aboriginal First Nations Cree land approximately 275 kilometres north of Chibougamau and 210 kilometres northeast of Mistissini. The proposed project consists of the wholly-owned Matoush, Matoush Extension and Eclat properties, as well as the Pacific-Bay-Matoush property. The Matoush project currently comprises 590 claims covering a total area of 31,195 hectares (312 square kilometres).

As of 2012, over 150 exploratory holes have been drilled in and around the Matoush project. A work camp comprising over 50 personal was established in 2007, and in 2010 a 1.5 km airway was constructed near the mining site [5].

The affected population near this project is minimal, as the nearest community is 210 km away in Mistissini with a population of around 3,500. However, the region as a whole which is designated for use by the Cree First Nation under the James Bay Northern Quebec Agreement consists of over 18,000 people [6].

Project area:31,195
Level of Investment:123,000,000
Type of populationRural
Affected Population:18,000 within the region, 4,000 within 250 km of the project.
Start of the conflict:01/01/2007
Company names or state enterprises:Strateco Resources Inc. (SRI) from Canada - Acquired a 60% stake in the Ditem options in 2005. Has been the main developer from 2006 onward, constructing the present day mining and exploratory drilling facility, including the nearby airport.
Uranerz Exploration and Mining Ltd. (UEML) from Canada - First to explore the Otish Mountain region and begin exploratory drilling at the Matoush prospect claim
Ditem Exploration Inc. (Ditem) from Canada - Optioned the site in 2002 after Ashton Diamonds/Soquem joint venture discovered large kimberlite deposits 70 km north of the Matoush site. Began extensive aeromagnetic survey over a large area and collected till samples for heavy mineral analyses.
Relevant government actors:Government of Quebec

Grand Council of the Cree’s

Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission

Le Bureau d'audiences publiques sur l'environnement (BAPE)

Ministère du Développement durable, de l’Environnement et de la Lutte contre les changements climatiques (MDDELCC)

Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency

Government of Canada - Minister of the Environment

President of CEA Agency & Federal Minister of the Environment

The Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development (DIAND)

Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Minister of Native Affairs (Quebec)
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Mining Watch Canada (https://miningwatch.ca/)

Aboriginal Multi-Media Society (AMMSA) – (http://www.ammsa.com/)

Nuclear-Free Future Award Foundation (NFFAF) – (http://www.nuclear-free-future.com/en/)

The Council of Canadians (https://canadians.org/)

World Information Service on Energy (WISE) – (https://www.wiseinternational.org/home)

Cree Board of Health and Social Services of James Bay (http://www.creehealth.org/)

Boreal Leadership Council (http://borealcouncil.ca/)

Southwest Research and Information Center (http://www.sric.org/)

Intercontinental Cry (https://intercontinentalcry.org/)

Conflict and Mobilization

IntensityLOW (some local organising)
Reaction stagePREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups mobilizing:Indigenous groups or traditional communities
International ejos
Local ejos
Local government/political parties
Neighbours/citizens/communities
Ethnically/racially discriminated groups
Local scientists/professionals
Forms of mobilization:Boycotts of official procedures/non-participation in official processes
Community-based participative research (popular epidemiology studies, etc..)
Development of a network/collective action
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Media based activism/alternative media
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Referendum other local consultations
Refusal of compensation

Impacts of the project

Environmental ImpactsVisible: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity
Potential: Soil contamination, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Mine tailing spills
Other Environmental impactsIncreasing ecological pressure on Boreal Woodland Caribou from forest fragmentation, and commercial/industrial development.
Health ImpactsPotential: Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…)
Other Health impactsIncreases in cancer and respiratory problems as a result of increased exposure to uranium tainted waters.
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Violations of human rights, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place, Other socio-economic impacts
Potential: displacement, Loss of livelihood, Social problems (alcoholism, prostitution, etc..)

Outcome

Project StatusStopped
Conflict outcome / response:Court decision (victory for environmental justice)
New Environmental Impact Assessment/Study
Withdrawal of company/investment
Project temporarily suspended
Development of alternatives:Abandonment of the Matoush Project and surrounding prospect claims and a permanent moratorium on any future uranium mining in Northern Quebec, and on traditional First Nation territory. Limitation on future development, uranium or otherwise, that endangers the environmental sustainability or integrity of the James Bay region of Northern Quebec.
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Not Sure
Briefly explain:On June 21, 2017 the Superior Court of Quebec rejected an appeal from Strateco Resources Inc. against the Attorney General of Quebec on behalf of the Government of Quebec and the Minister of the Environment. The presiding judge the Honorable Denis Jacques rejected Strateco's claim of $182,684,575 for the loss of its investment in the Matoush uranium project and an additional $10 million in punitive damages. This decision by the SCQ was undoubtedly a major win for environmentalists and First Nations advocates, as it set a precedent future mining companies trying to extract financial compensation from a development project after a government moratorium. However, the moratorium on uranium mining in Quebec can still be revoked by a simply change in government or public policy, as the court did not rule on the legality of the moratorium remaining in-place indefinitely. As a result, until a law is passed by the Quebec National Assembly (which is unlikely) then uranium mining in Northern Quebec and at the Matoush Project near Mistissini still has the possibility of being revived at a future date. In the meantime, the residents in the nearby Cree community of Mistissini will be left to worry about the ultimate fate of this massive (now abandoned) uranium project in their backyard.



At the same time this verdict was reached by the Superior Court of Quebec, the James Bay Cree First Nation groups used the opportunity to mention the many other mining activities still occurring in their region outside of uranium. In Northern Quebec, exploratory mining and industrial development is extensive, including other valuable minerals such as gold, silver, copper, iron ore, zinc, lead, and chromium. Other mining activities such as these have been increasing despite the moratorium on uranium mining, which is only a small fraction of Northern Quebec’s mining activities. As a result of the Plan Nord instituted by Premier Jean Charest, northern mining and industrial development is proceeding more rapidly than ever before, to the detriment of the local ecology and boreal species. Therefore, the temporary moratorium imposed on uranium mining only halted a small niche development in the Quebec mining sector, while far more important and extensive activities continue to expand unchecked. This is why the moratorium on uranium is seen by aboriginals as simply a bandage being applied to a fatal wound, as other mining sectors only increase their presence and impact on their environment.

Sources and Materials

Related laws and legislations - Juridical texts related to the conflict

Le Bureau d'audiences publiques sur l'environnement (BAPE) Report on Public Consultation on Uranium Industry Issues in Québec. Government of Quebec., 1-2

References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

[4] Strateco Resources Inc. 2012 Project Location Legend. Retrieved from http://www.stratecoinc.com/data/pdf/2012/PROJECTSLOCATION-2012_ANG.pdf

[3] Vendeville, G. (2014,). Mining company suing government; Quebec's Strateco seeks $190 million after its uranium project blocked. Montreal Gazette. Retrieved from http://montrealgazette.com/business/mining-company-files-190-million-lawsuit-against-quebec-for-blocking-uranium-project

[1] Strateco Resources: Matoush Project Properties. Retrieved from http://www.stratecoinc.com/en/our-properties/matoush-matoush-extension-eclat-and-pacific-bay-matoush-properties.php

[2] Le Bureau d'audiences publiques sur l'environnement (BAPE) Report on Public Consultation on Uranium Industry Issues in Québec. Government of Quebec., 1-2

[5] Strateco Resources: The Matoush Project – Location and Access. Retrieved from http://www.stratecoinc.com/en/our-properties/matoush-matoush-extension-eclat-and-pacific-bay-matoush-properties.php#1

[6] The Grand Council of the Cree: James Bay Northern Quebec Agreement (JBNQA) – Category Land and Aboriginal Title. Retrieved from http://www.gcc.ca/pdf/LEG000000006.pdf

Links to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites

Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission: The Matoush Uranium Exploration Project
http://nuclearsafety.gc.ca/eng/resources/status-of-new-nuclear-projects/matoush/index.cfm

The Council of Cree Nation of Mistissini – Brief on Uranium Mining
http://www.bape.gouv.qc.ca/sections/mandats/uranium-enjeux/documents/MEM25.pdf

The Globe and Mail: Quebec’s Plan Nord project snubs uranium mining in the province
https://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/industry-news/energy-and-resources/quebecs-plan-nord-project-snubs-uranium-mining-in-the-province/article25714987/

Strateco Resources Corporate Website
http://www.stratecoinc.com/home.php

Mining.com – Quebec becomes third province to impose uranium moratorium
http://www.mining.com/quebec-becomes-third-province-to-impose-uranium-moratorium-26158/

Grand Council of the Crees - JAMES BAY CREES LAUNCH STAND AGAINST URANIUM MARCH
http://www.gcc.ca/newsarticle.php?id=396

Mines and Communities.org - Canadian Cree renew opposition to Matoush uranium project
http://www.minesandcommunities.org/article.php?a=11818

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

VIDEO: Ressources Strateco Inc. - Projet Matoush
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6kCAnmsiMVQ

VIDEO: Strateco Resources Inc. - Matoush Project
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_G8fQvFuq2s

VIDEO: Strateco Resources CEO Guy Hébert after moratorium imposed
https://www.bnn.ca/commodities/video/quebec-left-us-twisting-in-the-wind-uranium-developer~1077614

Other documents

Stand Against Uranium solidarity march Source: http://www.gcc.ca/newsarticle.php?id=396
https://file.ejatlas.org/docs/Canada_Cree-youth-walk-from-Mistissini-to-Montreal-oppose-uranium-development.jpg

Meta information

Contributor:Derrick Carruthers – [email protected] – Bishop’s University
Last update28/03/2018

Images

 

Stand Against Uranium solidarity march

Source: http://www.gcc.ca/newsarticle.php?id=396