Hunters call for uranium referendum in Nunavut, Canada

CBC NewsEye on the Arctic

The chair of the Baker Lake Hunters and Trappers Organization in Canada’s eastern Arctic territory of Nunavut said it’s time for a Nunavut-wide referendum on uranium mining.

Hugh Ikoe said a referendum is the only way to determine how people in the community feel.

“We really need to have a system where we can try and find out just exactly how all people of Nunavut really feel about uranium mining,” said Ikoe.

In a letter to the Nunavut Impact Review Board, Ikoe said recent consultations in Baker Lake may have given the wrong impression of community support for Areva Resources’ proposed Kiggavik uranium mine.

He said Areva Resources was allowed to dominate the meetings.

Ikoe said they should be allowed to ask questions of the regulatory agencies and other interveners without the mining company present. He said that would have resulted in a much more critical discussion of the proposed mine.

He said community members were told to ask Areva questions, but he said that’s not an adequate way to get at the truth.

“I think most everybody knew that regardless of what kinds of questions you ask any mining company, they’re not going to give you a negative answer and say, ‘oh, it’s going to be bad for the wildlife, environment or anything else for that matter’. They will always give you a positive answer.”

Ikoe said many residents of Baker Lake are still concerned about uranium mining in the area.

He said many people feel they’ve been ‘consulted to death’ on this topic, and they’re not sure their concerns have been heard. He said many feel the mine will go ahead no matter what they say.

This story is posted on Alaska Dispatch as part of Eye on the Arctic, a collaborative partnership between public and private circumpolar media organizations.