The Dené people of Ducharme have been holding the line against oil companies eyeing minerals and oil they hope to exploit in the area. From blocking access to trap lines with security gates and on to destroying the habitat and wildlife in the region, a strong group of First Nations peoples — with support from many others who are not actually in the camp — have been fighting against the endangerment of the environment and the destruction of their sustainable way of life.
The oil companies argue that they have agreements in place with the Mayor and Council of La Loche, however, this is Dené Territory; La Loche doesn’t hold jurisdiction over the land.
The Denesuline are hardest hit: Their rights are being marginalized, and their concerns are being negated. Oil companies focus their attention on city and town councils, and oftentimes refuse to consider their legal duty to consult certain Aboriginal groups in the process.
In December, the RCMP issued a court injunction against those who set up the “Holding The Line” camp, and threatened participants with arrest if they continued to with the blockade and peaceful protest.
So what exactly are the issues here past the trap lines being cut?
It’s the fact that a permit was granted to Cenovus, a Calgary-based energy company, that allows them a 30,000 barrel per day tar sands operation.
It’s the fact that Kelowna-based Fission Uranium is in the preliminary stages of setting up a mine in the Athabasca Basin, and that nearly 2,700 claims and 21 permits held by 122 companies and individuals (with another 15 claims currently pending) are hoping to mine uranium, base metals, gold, diamonds, and more over nearly 9 million hectares of land in northern Saskatchewan.
Some of you may be wondering what the issues are with regards to uranium mining, and the top four serious issues are these:
- Large volumes of contaminated water are pumped out of the mine when the mine is active, and that contaminated water is pumped into rivers and lakes. From there, the contaminated water leeches into the surrounding area, contaminating the environment and the wildlife.
- When a uranium mine is ventilated, radioactive dust and radon gas is released into the air.
- Waste rock from uranium mining operations are most likely containing elevated concentrations of radionuclides.
- Tailings management practices that isolate mine waste from the environment do not provide short-term or long-term effectiveness and this is worrisome in light of the fact that radioactive material has a half-life of 80,000 years according to scientists. To date, Canada has, on average, 200 million tons of uranium tailings radioactive waste.
To break uranium down into an understandable issue, when uranium disintegrates, it produces protactinium which is radioactive. When protactinium disintegrates, it produces thorium which is radioactive. When thorium disintegrates, it produces radium which is radioactive. When radium disintegrates, it turns into radon gas which is radioactive. When radon gas atoms disintegrate, they produce radon progeny, which is the term used to describe a half dozen other radioactive materials.
One of those radioactive materials is polonium, and this material is so toxic that it surpasses plutonium in its toxicity.
Scientists have stated that radon is about eight times heavier than air. What this means is that radon tends to stay close to the ground. Imagine now what happens when there’s a light breeze where radon is found. It can travel hundreds of miles with the help of a light breeze, carrying all that radioactivity along with it and leaving it behind on everything it flows over along the way.
In 2002, the Environmental Protection Agency in the U.S. published a report entitled, “Assessment of Risks from Radon in Homes.” In this report, a link between lung cancer and high concentrations of radon in homes was proven. Deaths from cancer caused by radon that year were second only to cigarette smoke deaths resulting in cancer.
For those of you who were unaware of the reasons why the “Holding The Line” camp is so important, now you have a better understanding. This isn’t about getting a financial slice of the oil company pie. This is about protecting the world we live in so future generations will have a future they can look forward to without unnecessary worries and concerns.
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