CNSC Licensing Hearing: The Matoush Underground Exploration Project
Commission hearing will consider Strateco’s application for a licence to prepare a site and construct for an underground uranium exploration project
On June 5 and June 7, 2012, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) will hold a one-day public hearing to consider Strateco Resources Inc. (Strateco) application for a licence to prepare site and construct an underground exploration project at the Matoush site, located approximately 260 kilometres north of Chibougamau, Quebec.
Strateco has applied to the CNSC for a licence to authorize the excavation of an exploration ramp and construction of surface buildings and facilities to support advanced exploration activities.
The proposed activities will allow Strateco to further characterize the uranium mineralization and to determine the feasibility of a future mine and mill, but the current application does not propose uranium mining or milling activities. Should the results of this underground exploration be positive and the CNSC receives an application to build and operate a uranium mine and mill, another environmental assessment and additional licensing hearings would be required.
The Commission Tribunal makes decisions on the licensing of nuclear facilities and projects through the public hearing process. The public hearing gives involved parties, Aboriginal groups and members of the public an opportunity to be heard before the Commission.
CNSC hearing dates and locations:
- June 5, 2012 – Mistissini
Neoskweskau Sports Complex
206 Main Street
- June 7, 2012 – Chibougamau
Club de golf de Chibougamau Chapais
130, rue des Forces Armées
- Hearing time will be published in the agenda prior to the hearing date
- The CNSC Webcasts its public hearings and keeps an archive of previous Webcasts
Results of the completed federal and provincial environmental assessment
In accordance with the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act (CEAA), a federal environmental assessment was carried out for the Matoush project. The purpose of an environmental assessment is to identify the possible environmental effects of a proposed project, and determine whether these effects can be mitigated before the project is allowed to proceed.
The project is located within the administrative region governed by the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement (JBNQA) and is subject to both a federal and a provincial environmental and social assessment under the JBNQA environmental assessment regime. The proposed project underwent an environmental assessment that met the requirements of the JBNQA and the CEAA.
A comprehensive study report was presented to the Commission Tribunal in July 2011. CNSC staff concluded that the project as proposed, after mitigation, is not likely to result in significant adverse environmental effects. In February 2012, the federal Minister of the Environment and the federal administrator rendered their decisions allowing the project to proceed to the next phases of licensing and permitting.
The province of Quebec will render its decision on the environmental assessment and provincial permitting at a later date.
- Strateco’s licence application does not include uranium mining or milling.
- Since the Matoush project does not involve the mining of uranium, the risks associated with the project are similar to those encountered in conventional mining in Canada.
- The CNSC is involved in the licensing of this project since the Matoush project qualifies as an “excavation site” as defined by the Uranium Mines and Mills Regulations.
- Present-day uranium workers and people living near the facilities are as healthy as the general Canadian population.
Public and Aboriginal consultation and participation during the environmental assessment
Through the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency’s (CEAA) Participant Funding Program and the Aboriginal Funding Envelope, funding was allocated to the public and to Aboriginal groups to participate in the environmental assessment review process.
The CNSC, as Canada’s nuclear regulator recognizes and understands the importance of consulting and building relationships with Canada’s Aboriginal Peoples.
The communities of Mistissini, Chibougamau and Chapais were identified as the three communities located closest to the proposed project and therefore may have the most interest in the proposed Matoush project. Since the Matoush project is the first advanced uranium exploration project in the province of Quebec, CNSC staff engaged in many outreach activities in 2009 and 2010 to assist Aboriginal Peoples, the public, decision-makers and community representatives in understanding the regulation of the uranium mining industry. The objective of the outreach was to provide decision-makers and the public with an understanding of the uranium mining industry and to gain an understanding of any concerns. CNSC staff continue to respond to public outreach and consultation requests, and Aboriginal consultation will continue throughout the licence hearing process.
CNSC staff’s recommendation to the Commission Tribunal
In CNSC staff’s submission to the Commission Tribunal regarding the Strateco application, the results of CNSC staff’s review and assessment of the licence application are described. CNSC staff verified Strateco’s compliance with the requirements of the Nuclear Safety and Control Act, the Uranium Mines and Mills Regulations, and other applicable regulations.
CNSC staff concluded that the project, as described, poses a low overall risk to health, safety and the environment. The proposed activities and related risks are similar to those normally encountered in conventional mining. Mining development would be for the most part through clean rock.
CNSC staff further concluded that Strateco is qualified to carry on the activity authorized by the licence and that the applicant will, in carrying out that activity, make adequate provision for the protection of the health and safety of workers, the public and the environment, and the maintenance of national security.
CNSC staff recommended that the Commission accept CNSC staff’s assessment and conclusions and approve the issuance of a five-year site preparation and construction licence for the construction of an underground ramp. Following the issuance of a licence, CNSC staff would establish a compliance program including verification, promotion and enforcement to ensure that Strateco, as a new licensee, is in compliance with the licence and its conditions.
Did you know?
- The CNSC will only issue a licence if it is satisfied the proposed nuclear facility or activity is safe for the health, safety and security of persons and the environment.
- If the Commission grants Strateco a licence for this project, CNSC staff would verify that Strateco abides by the conditions of its licence through compliance activities, including inspections and review of environmental and radiation data analysis.
- The CNSC ensures groundwater, streams, lakes and rivers downstream of uranium mining projects are safe for people, plants, fish and other animals.
Decision by the Commission Tribunal
Following a public hearing, the Commission Tribunal deliberates and makes its decision on the matter. The Commission’s decision and its reasons for decision are normally published within six weeks after the conclusion of the hearing.