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B.C. shuts door on uranium projects

The Globe and Mail: Wendy Stueck - April 25, 2008

VANCOUVER -- British Columbia has slapped an official moratorium on uranium exploration and development in the province, reinforcing a long-standing informal ban on the nuclear fuel and dashing the hopes of companies that hoped to take advantage of soaring prices for the commodity.

The ban, announced yesterday, makes B.C. a no-go zone for uranium and confirms a moratorium put in place in 1980 by a previous government responding to anti-nuclear sentiment in the province.

That moratorium lapsed in 1987 but subsequent governments did not move to update it, as companies focused their exploration campaigns on other metals and because there was a widespread view that uranium production would be unpopular in the province.

That changed in recent years, as uranium prices more than doubled and climate change concerns put emissions-free, uranium-fed nuclear power plants in the spotlight.

Several companies, including Vancouver-based Boss Power Inc., dusted off uranium projects that had been explored decades ago with an eye to bringing them into production.

The government's decision comes as a surprise and contradicts assurances Boss had received that it would be able to take its project to public hearings, Boss spokesman Rupert Allan said yesterday.

"We did not know this was coming," Mr. Allan said, saying the decision makes the company's Blizzard deposit worthless. The company had described it as containing up to $1-billion worth of uranium.

There is no uranium mining in B.C. Uranium exploration is under way in other provinces, but the only producing mines in Canada are in Saskatchewan.

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