Uranium mining in the Yukon and larger issues

Uranium mining in the Yukon and larger issues Although I do not live in the Yukon, I first began working here doing mineral exploration in 1974, and have not missed many summers since then. Longtime Yukoners will identify with my observations, but over

Although I do not live in the Yukon, I first began working here doing mineral exploration in 1974, and have not missed many summers since then.

Longtime Yukoners will identify with my observations, but over the years I have found that the Yukon’s anti-mining faction tends to be young and transient, or works at well-paid jobs unrelated to the mining industry and generally lacks a sense of what a great place Whitehorse and the Yukon was (and could be again) with a robust economy.

Summertime in Whitehorse used to be a dominated by action on the community’s ball diamonds, league play and weekend tournaments. Thirty or more teams were common, and on many nights it was impossible to find a parking spot or a seat in any pub that was not filled with ruddy-faced weekend warriors, in and out of uniform, with their ball gloves in a pile near the table.

The “near over the hill” gang played ball because they had well paying jobs that included the luxury of leisure time, and they enjoyed the team atmosphere of corporate sponsorship.

The Yukon economy, powered by mining operations at Whitehorse Copper, United Keno Hill, Cypress Anvil, exploration successes in the Selwyn Basin and the construction of the Dempster Highway all combined to make the Yukon a vibrant, exciting place where it was easy to believe that anything was possible.

Angela Sabo, in her letter Do We Really Want Uranium Mining? (published on May 15) was correct on one point: mining projects do have a long lead time.

Sabo, that is precisely why it is necessary to allow exploration projects to proceed to a point where their viability can be quantified and the cost benefits of the project can be understood.

Sabo was wrong on many other points.

Radon gas is a naturally occurring product of radioactive decay of minerals and it is emitted at exactly the same rate regardless of if the rocks have been mined or left undisturbed in the ground.

Uranium concentrations are generally very low as a natural occurrence. It is necessary to refine it to yellow cake that is later processed into reactor fuel.

After use, the spent fuel rods do contain radioactive products that have to be carefully stored for a long time, but this is a miniscule volume compared to the original mined volume of rock.

Radioactive Alpha particles are the weakest atomic radiation. These particles do not have enough energy to penetrate human skin. Sabo, please don’t rely on the internet as a research tool for serious work on this topic.

I also must strongly disagree with the views of Ken Madsen in We Should All Care About This Special Place (published May 15).

Madsen indicates the Peel Watershed will be seriously damaged by road developments related to mining.

That line of reasoning, taken to its logical extension, suggests that the Dempster Highway devastated the Eagle Plains and the Alaska Highway destroyed the Yukon.

Madsen was right on one point: we do need mining, from iron ore to aluminum, from computer chips to the titanium replacement parts for mom’s hip – we need it.

The thing about mining is that we can only do it where the minerals were initially concentrated.

The footprint of a mine is very small in relationship to the area we must search to find that location.

I do not know the specific spot in the Bonnet Plume region Madsen referred to, but I can say with authority that land-use regulations have changed dramatically since early exploration in that area.

Future exploration cannot be judged by land-use impacts left under different rules.

Over the years, I’ve known a lot of Yukoners who loved it here, but were forced to move away by economic reasons or for educational opportunities for their kids.

Once educated, those kids rarely return to the Yukon.

The elitist view of wrapping the Yukon in plastic to preserve it, fails to recognize that, during the wrapping process, the lifetime residents are suffocated and youth are denied a future, a well-paid job and a positive sense of self-worth.

Environmentalism has been called the new religion – a religion that supports its believers and condemns the “environmental costs” of the nonbelievers.

Those who righteously claim they are protecting Yukon wilderness by discouraging the economic development produced by mining should openly acknowledge the brutally tangible social costs of their own agenda.

An agenda that, inS large part, contributes to the Yukon’s real growth industries of abuse and addiction.

Glenn Hartley, geologist

Edmonton

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