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Chester wants uranium mining ban made law:

Worried about health hazards, council asks N.S. to enact legislation

Halifax Chronicle Herald: Beverley Ware - April 11, 2008

CHESTER - Chester municipal councillors want the province to permanently ban uranium mining.

A retired emergency room doctor spoke to council about the health hazards of uranium Thursday morning. After that, the seven-member council voted unanimously to ask the provincial government to enshrine a ban in legislation.

"At this point, to lift the moratorium literally requires nothing more than a stroke of the pen," Dr. David Maxwell said in an interview after his presentation to council. "There is no legislative ban on anything."

Nova Scotia is the only province or territory to have such a moratorium. It has been in effect since 1982. Premier Rodney MacDonald has asked for a review of the ban, given the growing demand for nuclear energy.

Spokeswoman Jennifer Gavin said the Natural Resources Department isn't directly reviewing the moratorium. A committee of Nova Scotians working under Voluntary Planning will speak with people across the province, then develop a new natural resources strategy governing minerals, forests, parks and biodiversity. Those meetings will begin next month.

Ms. Gavin said it will take three years to put a new mineral policy in place.

The issue is of particular concern in the Chester area because Tripple Uranium Resources Inc. has found uranium in its search for gold and base minerals in Wentworth and in Millet Brook, near New Ross.

The company reported April 1 it found significant concentrations of uranium in five of 11 drill holes. The find was not unexpected - the Mining Association of Nova Scotia has said the province's geology indicates there are large uranium deposits - but Tripple's exploration

licence does not allow it to search for uranium.

"The province is still enforcing the moratorium," Ms. Gavin said.

Cheryl Scott is the councillor for the New Ross area. She said a number of

residents already buy bottled water because there is uranium in the groundwater and their wells. And they're worried about what will happen to them if the ban is lifted.

Dr. Maxwell said uranium and the mining process are hazardous. "We're not against mining. Uranium mining is particularly dangerous and different."

"The waste products remain hazardous for tens of thousands of years," he told council. "You cannot get rid of them. ... Radioactivity damages cells, period. There's no way around it. There is no safe level."

He said uranium and waste products from its mining damage chromosomes, cause miscarriages, birth defects, cancers and fertility problems and damage kidneys.

Dr. Maxwell said radon gas is also released in the mining process and it breaks down in the lungs into polonium, lead and bismuth, which damage cells.

"It causes lung cancer, very simple."

Uranium mining would create only a few jobs that would last little more than a decade, he said.

"It does not justify poisoning our environment for the next 10,000 years. I mean it's utterly ridiculous."

Coun. Marshal Hector said while he supports legislating the ban, council should hear from the mining industry. He said council listens to both sides of the argument on other issues and should on this, too.

But Coun. Gail Smith didn't agree.

"I am adamant in the fact we don't need to hear at this point from mining people. ... There is no second side to this story."

A spokesman for Tripple Uranium was unavailable for comment Thursday.

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