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Uranium Royalties Subject Of Controversy In Northern Saskatchewan

SASKATCHEWAN INDIAN      DECEMBER 1996      v26 n01 p29  
For quite some time now, northern Saskatchewan has been the scene of controversy concerning uranium mining. First Nations, Metis and municipal organizations are all concerned about the sharing of royalties and the effect that mining is having on the environment, in the north.

In 1991, a joint federal/provincial panel was established to review the effects of five proposed mines in northern Saskatchewan. In 1993, the panel made a number of recommendations to the provincial government. Sharing the royalties from uranium mining was one of the recommendations made.

However, the provincial government rejected this recommendation, claiming that it was proceeding with training and health care initiatives in lieu of the royalty-sharing.

In the three years since that time, very little has changed. In an attempt to demonstrate the flaws in the system, John Dantouze, Prince Albert Grand Council (PAGC) Vice-Chief and the only Aboriginal member of the panel, resigned his position on October l, 1996. His resignation was provoked by the lack of attention given to the panel's recommendations by the federal and provincial governments and by deficiencies in the Environmental Impact Assessments from the mining companies.

Since Dantouze's resignation, the northern municipalities of La Loche, Sandy Bay, Stony Rapids and Beauval have demonstrated a display of solidarity and joined with three Dene First Nations in cancelling their participation in panel discussions. The northern communities are requesting an audience with the federal and provincial governments to express their concerns and come to a joint resolution on uranium mining.

PAGC Grand Chief Alphonse Bird states that they want to see a bilateral agreement or Memorandum of Understanding with the province. Bird equates the situation with that of potash mining in southern Saskatchewan. "We have a share in the natural resources," he says. He sees no reason why revenue-sharing on that scale would not work for the northern communities.

However, the governments are refusing to come to the table until the panel process has been completed. Until then, northern communities may have no other choice but to settle for the status quo.