The environmental watchdog for the Canadian province of Québec, the Bureau d'Audiences Publiques sur l'Environnement (BAPE), is to carry out a study on uranium mining issues after environmental groups urged that mining activities be suspended until the risks are fully accessed.
Québec is renowned for its rich uranium resources and northern Québec has around 20 proposed uranium mining projects, including Boucherville-based Strateco's Matoush project in the Otish Mountains near Chibougamau, which is expected to be the most advanced uranium mining project to date.
However, in 2013 the Parti Québécois Government put a hold on uranium mining until BAPE had completed its study of environmental impacts and social acceptability.
According to Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment member Éric Notebaert, a study released this year by the province's health department found that uranium poses numerous risks to the environment and to human health, notably cancer risks and toxic and radioactive contamination, as well as psychological and social impacts.
Following requests from several associations, BAPE decided to carry out the new study.
The year-long investigation starting in May will be performed in three phases by former environmental journalist Louis-Gilles Francoeur, in collaboration with commissioners Michèle Goyer and Joseph Zayed.
The three phases are pre-consultation, question and information, and the presentation of briefs.
During the pre-consolation phase between 20 May and 23 June, the commission will hear public concerns about uranium mining; the committee will then consult experts and speak with people during the question and information phase in the autumn. Finally, the committee will allow interested parties to present written briefs or speak directly to them regarding the issues.