In a letter to the editor in the Dec. 3 Daily Gleaner, an associate professor in UNB’s chemical engineering department said uranium mining can sustain a community without destroying it.
He pointed to Elliot Lake as an example but gave no evidence to support the claim, nor did he define what would constitute destruction of a community.
At one point in Elliot Lake’s history, there were at least nine uranium mines operating. Now, there are none.
What’s been left behind are lakes, rivers, soil and wildlife contaminated with high levels of radium-226, a by-product of uranium mining and known carcinogen, and former miners with lung cancer and other radiation-related illness who file claims for compensation at a rate of one each week.
I know this because I lived in Elliot Lake. My father, a uranium miner, was one of the many miners that filed a compensation claim and has since died.
The incidence of cancer is not restricted to miners. I know this, too, because my mother died of cancer. So did the wives of many other uranium miners.
I am just learning that kids I went to school with in the 1960s and early 70s have died of cancer as well.
The fact that Elliot Lake still exists as a community could be viewed by some as evidence that it hasn’t been destroyed by mining activity. But with no mines operating now, environmental contamination that will last centuries and high cancer rates, it’s difficult to conclude that uranium mining has left Elliot Lake environmentally, socially and economically healthy.