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McClean Lake Uranium Mining Project Court Case - Canada

(last updated 1 Apr 2005)


> See also ICUC homepage


Supreme Court of Canada upholds McClean Lake license

On March 24, 2005, the Supreme Court of Canada dismissed with costs ICUC's request to appeal the June 2004 Federal Court of Appeal decision that upheld the validity of the McClean Lake uranium facility's operating licence.

> View Supreme Court Bulletin of March 24, 2005
> Download Supreme Court Judgment March 24, 2005 (PDF, CRI)

Appeals court overrules quashing of McClean Lake license

On June 4, 2004, the Federal Court of Appeals overturned the Sep. 23, 2002 Federal Court decision that quashed the operating licence for the McClean Lake uranium mining and milling facilities.

> View Federal Court of Appeals decision: Atomic Energy Control Board v. Inter-Church Uranium Committee Educational Co-operative, 2004 FCA 218 (June 4, 2004)

Appeals court date set for McClean Lake license case

A court date has been set for Cogema Resources Inc. and the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) to appeal a surprise 2002 decision of the Federal Court of Canada which invalidated Cogema's licence to operate the McClean Lake mine.
A three-judge panel will meet in Saskatoon Jan. 13, 2004, to hear Cogema and CNSC argue the mine was licensed properly under federal environmental legislation that existed in the early 1990s. (Saskatoon StarPhoenix, Dec. 5, 2003)

ICUC and Stefania Fortugno named "Environmental Activists of the Year"

The Saskatchewan Eco-Network has named the Inter-Church Uranium Committee (ICUC) and its lawyer Stefania Fortugno "Environmental Activists of the Year". Fortugno spent the past four years representing the committee in court as it fought to stop uranium tailings from polluting water in northern Saskatchewan. Last fall, a judge overturned a decision which allowed a uranium company to open a toxic waste dump near McClean Lake. Yvonne Hanson, a spokesperson for the Saskatchewan Eco-Network, says it was a "David and Goliath" fight. "I think that it was precedent-setting in Canada... I think that stands for itself as a quite huge challenge and a real victory for the environmental movement in Saskatchewan." (CBC Saskatchewan Nov. 19, 2003)

Province and Northerners join McClean Lake Appeal

The Province of Saskatchewan and the Lac La Ronge Indian Band, the Kitsaki Development Limited Partnership and Northern Resource Trucking (NRT) joined Cogema's McClean Lake Appeal. (CRI June 18, 2003)

Federal Court of Appeal grants stay - McClean Lake mine continues operation

On Nov. 7, 2002, the Federal Court of Appeal has granted a stay of the September 23, 2002 decision of the Trial Division of the Federal Court of Canada that quashed the 1999 McClean Lake operating license. As a result, the McClean mill continues to operate.
> View Appeal Court decision (Nov. 7, 2002)

Court quashes McClean Lake operating license

The Inter-Church Uranium Committee Educational Cooperative won its court case against the Atomic Energy Control Board (today the Nuclear Safety Commission) and Cogema Resources. On September 23, 2002, Federal court Judge Campbell ruled that a Judicial Review was neccessary for the AECB decision to grant an operating licence for the JEB Uranium Tailings Facility without a full environmental assessment. As of September 24, 2002, the operating licence for the JEB nuclear waste facility is quashed. In effect all uranium mine operations in northern Saskatchewan connected to the JEB pit will have to cease as there is nowhere to put their waste. This includes the McLean Lake and Cigar Lake mines. (ICUC Sep. 24, 2002)
Cogema Resources is taking immediate steps to request the Federal Court of Appeal to have the decision to quash the licence stayed while an appeal is heard.

> View Court decision 2002 FCT 994

> See also Cogema Resources release Sep. 24, 2002 · Denison release Sep. 24, 2002 (PDF)
Cogema Resources: McClean Lake Court Case Overview · News Releases
Denison Energy: McClean Lake Court Case

On September 27, 2002, Cogema Resources Inc., as operator of the McClean facility, filed its application with the Federal Court of Appeal to stay the decision of Mr. Justice Douglas R. Campbell pending an outcome of the appeal of the decision.
> View Denison release Sep 27, 2002 (PDF)

Uranium mill case in court on Sep. 12, 2002

The legal case involving the Inter-Church Uranium Committee Educational Cooperative vs Atomic Energy Control Board (Nuclear Safety Commission) and Cogema Resources (French nuclear company) will be in federal court on Thursday Sept 12, 2002, beginning at 9:30 am. (ICUC Sep 11, 2002)

Uranium mill case delayed

The court challenge over the operation of the McClean Lake uranium mill and storage pit has been delayed.
The Inter-Church Uranium Committee was set for a hearing in Federal Court this week. But the court has asked the group's lawyer for additional written information before it goes ahead. A new hearing date has not been set. (CP May 1, 2002)

Inter-Church Uranium Committee Press Statement · Saskatoon, Saskatchewan · July 22, 1999

ICUCEC Brings the AECB to Federal Court

Seeking to Quash Its Decision to License the McClean Lake Uranium Mill & Tailings Waste Dump

Federal Court No. T-1313-99

The Inter-Church Uranium Committee is deeply concerned about the AECB's June 17, 1999 decision to license COGEMA's JEB Mill and tailings waste dump at McClean Lake in Northern Saskatchewan.

The Committee believes that not only has the AECB sacrificed the public's interest in a clean and safe environment to COGEMA's economic interest in these operations, but that the Board's decision sets an unacceptable precedent for licensing dangerous waste dumps in Saskatchewan.

The 1997 report by the Joint Federal-Provincial Environmental Assessment Panel on Uranium Mining Developments in Northern Saskatchewan described the JEB pit as potentially one of the most dangerous waste dumps in Canada. It should be noted that the term "waste dump" is not some environmentalist hyperbole, but the actual term used by the Panel in its report. The Panel stated that the mine tailings going into this dump are more toxic in the long term than the high level wastes coming out of nuclear reactors.

In 1997, the Panel discovered serious problems with arsenic and other contaminants leaching out of the tailings. The Panel concluded that:

Before the JEB pit is approved for deposition of tailings from Midwest ore, the proponents should demonstrate, using actual experimental data from aged tailings, that porewater contaminant concentrations can be controlled at acceptable levels. Theoretical solutions should not be accepted in lieu of experimental data for these purposes. The chemistry of tailings depositories is so complex that theories can be used only as a rough guide for the design of processes. (Report of the Joint Federal-Provincial on Uranium Mining Developments in Northern Saskatchewan, Midwest Uranium Mine Project, 1997 at 30.)

COGEMA and AECB staff spent the next year and a half trying to develop actual experimental data to show that contaminant concentrations, especially arsenic concentrations, could be controlled at acceptable levels.

Neither the proponent nor the regulator was successful in this regard. Notwithstanding this failure, AECB staff recommended that the project proceed, claiming that the JEB Mill and dump had already been assessed by the Joint Panel in 1993, disregarding the Panel's 1997 comments that kept them busy for a year and a half, and proposing that the problems with this dump be resolved by filling it only part way up with toxic and radioactive wastes.

ICUC finds this approach regarding one of Canada's most dangerous waste dumps insufficient and unacceptable. It sets a disturbing precedent, especially since Saskatchewan has already been the target of other nuclear waste disposal proposals. We do not want to become known as a place where licensing process irregularities and shabby waste dump designs are tolerated.

Instead, ICUC wants full public input and participation in the decision as to whether such a facility should be licensed. This can only be had through a comprehensive study or environmental assessment under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act.

As a result, ICUC has applied to the Federal Court, Trial Division to review the Board's decision to license, and will seek to have the Court quash the license and order a new environmental assessment of this project in accordance with Canada's environmental laws.

For further information contact: Stefania Fortugno, Lawyer for the Inter-Church Uranium Committee at +1-306-653-0898

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