Yellowhead Ecological Association (YEA)
Uranium Mine Proposal Facts    News Release      What Can I Do?      Form Letter      Links

SOME FACTS ABOUT URANIUM EXPLORATION AND MINING FOR THE FOGHORN POLYMETALIC PROJECT, BIRCH ISLAND, near, CLEARWATER, B.C.

Foghorn Mountain is located directly east of the community of Birch Island in the upper North Thompson Valley.  The CN, rail line and Hwy #5 pass directly under the base of the mountain along the Thompson River.  Birch Island is approximately 127 km north east of Kamloops, B.C., and 10km from Clearwater.  The uranium claims start approximately 4km up the Foghorn Mountain access road.  The topography of this area is steep mountainous terrain with a total elevation gain of about 1000m to the height of land where the current uranium claims end.  There are several smaller drainage systems coming off Foghorn, but the main drainage is Foghorn Creek which sheds most of the Foghorn tributary.  This drainage flows directly into the North Thompson River immediately south of the community of Birch Island.

The estimated size of the “Rexspar Uranium Deposit” is 3, 125 hectares (about 7000 acres), but may actually be up to 8000 hectares.  Most reports claim that there is approximately 1.62 million tons of grading ore, with an average of 1.67 lbs of U308 per ton.  For every ton of ore proposed to be extracted, 1.67 lbs of uranium would be produced.  The tailings ponds would contain over 1.5 million tons of radioactive slimes.  Studies have shown that the tailings left over from uranium mining contain 85% of the radioactivity of uranium.

There are three main areas of concern in regard to the mining of uranium.

HEALTH EFFECTS – Uranium ore breaks down into very small particles that are water soluble, thus, it contaminates ground water aquifers, wells, streams, soil and even the air.  Once water, soil and air become radioactive, the food chain is forever contaminated.  When life is exposed to these radioactive particles it alters the cells in our bodies and causes cancer, abortions, birth defects and a myriad of other diseases and sickness.  Gulf War Syndrome is actually radiation sickness from depleted uranium (DU).   It takes about 1 billion years for these particles to become inert.

A massive body of scientific evidence has stated clearly that there is “no” safe amount of low level radiation.  This includes a report conducted by the federal government made up of a 32 member panel including government scientists.  It has also been stated that low level radiation is the second leading cause of cancer next to cigarette smoking.  The massive amount of radioactive tailings that would be produced from this mine would have 85% the radioactivity of uranium itself.  If a project such as this was to proceed,  an additional cancer treatment clinic would have to be built in Kamloops, to administer to the considerable increase in cancer cases.

THE ENVIRONMENT – Scientists and engineers around the world are still puzzling over how to contain radioactive tailings, which has never been done successfully.  Tailings must be managed for thousands of years.  The common approach is to create huge pits which are usually made up of local native soils.  The carrying material for the ore body on Foghorn mountain is volcanic, which is extremely porous, this is overlain by glacial till which is extremely resistant to water penetration.  The tailings pits or lakes are then covered with water.  Due to the steep topography of Foghorn Mountain, the tailings “lakes” would likely be located on the flood plains in Birch Island.  Water will leach through the lakes into the groundwater systems and into the river system.  Radioactive radon gas is also given off from the tailings, and it migrates through soil particles in the ground.  Over 50% of uranium mines are underground tunnel system, approximately 27% are open cut mining and around 20% are In Situ Leaching.  Reclamation of uranium mining costs millions of dollars and can still never be successfully done.  Currently, the B.C. government does not have adequate written guidelines for mining uranium; 23 pages of regulations have been reduced to a few paragraphs.

There is no “new” way to contain radioactive tailings.  The topography of Foghorn Mountain would not allow huge tailings pits to be constructed, thus these radioactive sludge lakes would need to be constructed on the flood plains in Birch Island along the banks of the North Thompson River.  The radioactive half-life of uranium 308 is over a billion years.  The radioactive isotopes contained within the tailings are water soluble and would leach into the ground aquifers, wells, streams and the North Thompson River in perpetuity.  The radon 222 gas would permeate throughout soil pores and contaminate the air indefinitely.  Contaminated water, soil and air would cause an indeterminable amount of disease and death, as well as, polluting our fourth largest river system for thousands of years.

THE END USES – Nuclear energy facilities are touted by the industry as “green and clean” this focus has largely been on the fact that a NUKE plant does not directly release green house gases into the atmosphere.  Missing from that claim is any mention of the green house gases released through the rest of the nuclear cycle; from mining and transportation of uranium, to the building of massive plants and the unsafe disposal of (DU) wastes.  The spent fuel rods are impossible to manage and there is still no proven technology deal with uranium, which has been liberated from its ore composition.  This waste must be managed for thousands of years. To date, a total of 179 nuclear plants world-wide are either under construction, planned or proposed, when conservation and alternative energy sources are cheaper safer and more reliable.  There could be a 40% increase of plants in the world.  Much of the depleted uranium from Canada is sold or given to the US, which uses it in shell casings for ammunitions.  Thus, Gulf War Syndrome is becoming known as radiation sickness.

Currently the Canadian government is contemplating options to deal with depleted uranium (DU), the popular proposal is a huge underground waste repository planned to be built 500-1000m beneath the Canadian Shield.  The waste would be buried in titanium barrels.  The federal government is projecting there to be over 200 billion tons of depleted uranium to be “managed by the year 2020”.  This DU, must be managed because it can never be made inert or safe to be in the vicinity of humans or life in general.  A popular modern use of depleted uranium is it’s usage as shielding for military vehicles and for the shell casings of ammunitions.  This use of DU has contributed to radiation sickness in thousands of soldiers and the inhabitants of Iraq and other gulf war countries.  This “Gulf War Syndrome” has also affected thousands of Canadian Peace Keeping Soldiers.  Canada has also entered into a multi-country agreement that provides for depleted uranium to be returned to country of origin.  This also includes Canada’s uranium that ends up in decommissioned nuclear war heads.  Canada is currently the world’s largest producer of uranium.

Ultimately, the proposed Foghorn Polymetallic exploration, near Clearwater, B.C., will be a very short term benefit estimated to last only nine years!  Tourists are already asking questions and realtors are expressing grave concerns.  Many Europeans see uranium mining as extremely detrimental and they will not want to visit Super Natural B.C. in the vicinity of radioactive mines.  Property values in areas of uranium mines are almost worthless.  Agri-tourism products will be impossible to market and sell, and the health of us and future generations will forever be compromised if uranium exploration or mining goes ahead in B.C..