Nunavut lobbied in 2008 to end foreign ownership restriction on Areva
“Our government wishes to ensure that foreign capital is free to flow to Nunavut”
The Government of Nunavut asked a federal panel in 2008 to ditch a rule that prevents majority foreign ownership of uranium mines in Canada.
In the submission, the GN said it wishes “to ensure that the Kiggavik uranium exploration project owned by Areva Resources Ltd. is allowed to proceed to the development stage without undue hindrance.”
Baker Lake MLA Moses Aupaluqtuq tabled the document in the Nunavut legislature May 9.
“Our government wishes to ensure that foreign capital is free to flow to Nunavut in as efficient a manner as possible, and this forms the basis of our submission,” the GN document said.
Areva Canada is a subsidiary of a French firm called Areva, which is roughly 80 per cent owned by the French government.
In 1987, Industry Canada announced the federal government’s current policy on uranium mine ownership: 51 per cent of a uranium mine’s ownership must reside in Canada.
The rule makes exceptions for a lesser level of Canadian ownership if the firm can demonstrate Canadian control and grants exemptions — subject to approval by the federal cabinet — if the firm can’t find a Canadian partner.
Under those rules, Areva Canada is allowed to do development work on a uranium mine, but if the Industry Canada rules don’t change, it wouldn’t be allowed to operate a uranium mine under its current ownership structure.
The GN submission, signed by Patterk Netser, who then served as the GN’s economic development minister, said Nunavut needs the Kiggavik uranium mine to create jobs, infrastructure and economic opportunities.
But the only large Canadian uranium mine-owner, Cameco Corp., does not appear to be able to buy an interest in Kiggavik.
That means only Areva has the financial ability to bring Kiggavik into production, the GN submission said.
For that reason, the current foreign ownership cap on uranium mine ownership constitutes “a disproportionate hindrance to the territory’s economic development and the welfare of its people.”
Industry Canada’s Competition Policy Review Panel, to which the GN made its submission, produced a report in June 2008.
In it, the panel recommended that Industry Canada ease foreign ownership restrictions on uranium mining, but the federal government has not acted on the recommendation.
Meanwhile, the lobby campaign to change Canada’s uranium mine ownership rules continues, with support from Brad Wall, the premier of Saskatchewan and Kathy Dunderdale, the premier of Newfoundland-Labrador.
The GN made its submission to the Competition Policy Review Panel about four years prior to the release of its current uranium policy in June 2012.
That was preceded in 2011 by a series of consultation meetings on uranium mining.
The Nunavut Impact Review Board will hold technical meetings and a community roundtable May 28 to May 31 in Baker Lake on Areva’s draft environmental impact statement for Kiggavik.
From June 4 to June 6, the NIRB will host a pre-hearing conference to discuss upcoming public hearings on the Areva DEIS.
The price of uranium on global markets sat at around US $40.50 per pound as of May 13, down from a high of about $138 a pound reached in June 2007.
NIRB’s environmental review of Kiggavik is not yet complete and the Areva has not made a final decision to construct a mine there.