GENELLE SAYS NO

Wolff, Cathy

Genelle says no When the town put its foot down, the uranium mining stopped Cathy Wolff Genelle, tucked along the Columbia River in the southeast corner of Canada's sprawling British Columbia, is...

...Direct nonviolent action by Genelle citizens and the publicity it sparked has helped focus widespread attention on the issue of uranium mining throughout the province...
...citizens about the potential health effects of uranium mining...
...But they soon discovered there were few regulations for mining exploration...
...The truck was spotted and within minutes one hundred people and twenty-five cars were blocking the road...
...Prospectors have the right to come into your front yard if they want...
...But I've been a union man all my life...
...We were assured that was all they would do," says McKenzie...
...McKenzie says officials finally started responding to the community's concerns, but the barricade continued...
...A few days later the dawn arrival of a helicopter was spotted by Ellen Grant...
...Although the hearing was organized by the mining company to soothe residents' fears, testimony was almost unanimously opposed to the venture...
...The federal government not only claims regulatory jurisdiction, but also is in the business of exporting uranium (and nuclear reactors) around the world, creating an obvious conflict of interest...
...I don't know who's stirring the pot, but it must be somebody...
...Mining companies then use these maps to lay their claims...
...The police ordered the cores to be taken back up the hill...
...The McKenzie family and a few others began organizing...
...Posters were hung, a small trailer was fixed up as a place for naps or all-night stays, and flyers promised free coffee and free bingo cards at the barricade...
...the B.C...
...But they soon were convinced the company was breaking the law by transporting radioactive material without a permit...
...The next night a few "leprechauns," according to McKenzie, put the remaining core samples back into the deeply drilled holes...
...But it's in this unincorporated town of 600 people that one of the strongest and apparently most successful stands against Canada's uranium exploration boom has taken place...
...Uranium mining poses as many unsolved and serious threats to life and environment as do nuclear plants and weapons," says one representative of a British Columbia environmental group...
...The arrests helped focus media attention on Genelle and a sympathy demonstration was held in front of the Department of Mines at Victoria, the provincial capital...
...the British Columbia Federation of Labor...
...The peak is directly above China Creek, which runs into the Columbia River and is Genelle's source of drinking water...
...One regional mining official even said reports of blasting in the China Creek area were "hogwash...
...In mid-May, the town put up a five-foot wooden barricade across the only road up the peak, preventing a drill from being moved to the exploration site and forcing consortium employes to carry supplies up by backpack...
...Up there" is about a half mile up Ogo Pogo peak, where a consortium of mining companies the China Creek Mining Consortium began blasting and drilling for uranium in the Fall of 1977...
...Direct and indirect government subsidies appear to be as extensive for uranium exploration as they are for the entire nuclear industry...
...At their trial in late October, the three presented expert testimony on the potential health hazards of uranium and argued they were "morally bound'' to block the road...
...When told, he apologized and left without the core samples, saying he probably would not be back...
...Do you think anybody would buy our property if a mine went in up there...
...In British Columbia alone, opposition to uranium mining has been voiced by the United Steel-workers of America, which represents almost all uranium miners in Ontario...
...They learned of Elliot Lake, Ontario, site of Canada's largest uranium mine, which has experienced a drastic increase in cancer deaths...
...McKenzie discovered the China Creek Mining Consortium, put together by a Toronto-based promoter named Earl Glick, had failed to fill out required information on reclamation plans when it received a permit from the Department of Mines...
...At the end of July, the company attempted to truck core samples off the peak after the day pickets left...
...International prices have shot up from $7 to more than $50 a pound in less than four years...
...There's only one man in the town who favors the exploration," said Norma McGregor, a picket captain...
...We want to see if mine speculation takes priority over a community's drinking water and health," says another Genelle citizen...
...The recent uranium hunt escalation in Canada and elsewhere has also been sparked by the dramatic uranium price increases engineered by an international cartel in which the Canadian government was deeply involved and which has spawned several lawsuits and investigations...
...People were hanging out the door and windows, it was so crowded," says Tom McKenzie, Sally's father and a chief organizer of the Genelle Citizens Action Committee formed that night...
...And at least temporarily it has stymied uranium exploration in Genelle...
...the Canadian Association of Industrial Mechanical and Allied Workers, Canada's largest union...
...Provincial Minister of Mines James Chabot called the growing Genelle concern a "socialist plot" and another ministry official added, "People get emotional about radiation...
...In Grand Forks, not far from Genelle, British Columbia, a woman recently chased uranium explorers off her land with a shotgun...
...Birkin was soon joined by a younger woman who pulled out her knitting as she settled into an adjoining lawn chair...
...After three weeks, the engineer supervising the exploration for the consortium asked that the barricade be taken down so the road the company hastily extended could be graded to prevent flooding of nearby homes...
...They heard about Port Hope, Ontario, where a grade school, built on uranium mining tailings, was closed after it was discovered children were being exposed to dangerously high levels of radioactive radon gas...
...I just kept imagining what it would feel like to go through the air with that bundle...
...In December 1977, more than 700 people attended an eight-hour public meeting in Clearwater, British Columbia, near the site of a proposed major open-pit uranium mine...
...Members of the Kootenay Nuclear Study Group, based in a nearby town, last spring began telling Genelle Cathy Wolff is a free-lance writer in Portsmouth, New Hampshire...
...It may have started with the water issue," says Sally McKenzie of the Genelle resistance, "but people are now beginning to see it as a whole nuclear question of provincial, national, and planetary implications.'' ¦ The non-mining fever spreads Nations around the world are scrambling to secure enough uranium to fuel their nuclear reactors and weapons now and in the future...
...This whole fight has really united the town," says one protester...
...It soon ceased drilling...
...The consortium had planned to drill thirty holes, but only three-and-a-half were done when the operation was halted...
...Outreach to other communities where mining exploration is going on has been launched and a province-wide network of activists against uranium mining has developed...
...We live off the land," she explained...
...A meeting was called at a small town hall...
...The picket and barricade went back up July 1. When a company lawyer tore down the barricade, Genelle citizens established a human wall across the road to prevent more heavy equipment from going up the peak...
...That is the decision we want made which comes first...
...She sat down on the last netted load...
...A similar program is going on in the United States...
...sixteen bands of Indians, and-various environmental groups...
...Genelle says no When the town put its foot down, the uranium mining stopped Cathy Wolff Genelle, tucked along the Columbia River in the southeast corner of Canada's sprawling British Columbia, is so small it's not listed on most maps of the province...
...The pickets agreed...
...But as the uranium boom grows, so does grass-roots resistance...
...the B.C...
...But they soon learned of other problems...
...People started getting concerned when the blasting up there started shaking plaster off their walls," says Sally McKenzie, who joined her sister, brother, parents, and almost everyone else in Genelle in actively protesting the uranium exploration project...
...women brought their knitting and shared the crocheting of an afghan that was raffled off to raise money for the group...
...The helicopter pilot asked her what she was doing...
...C.W...
...McKenzie says the town discovered quickly it "could get no help unless we started to make waves...
...Groups are actively working against uranium mining in Saskatchewan and other Canadian provinces, as well as in other nations especially Australia, where government has come to the support of industries with a law making it a crime to demonstrate against certain uranium mines...
...In Canada, federal and provincial governments spent $4.8 million in 1977 searching out and mapping potential uranium sources...
...These people are just being unreasonable...
...In Canada, regulatory jurisdiction over uranium mining is spotty and muddled, with both federal and provincial governments opting for control and much of the mining easily slipping through the broken web of enforcement...
...Last August, Ken Birkin sat during his picket shift on a lawn chair under a tree near the wooden wall, playing solitaire and drinking coffee...
...They only have to compensate, you for any damage to the surface of your property when they are done...
...I've never been in a protest before," said the fifty-seven-year-old mechanical engineer...
...Keeping uranium in the ground may be the most crucial part of the growing international anti-nuclear movement...
...Britain, France, Italy, Spain, Japan, and the United States all are involved in uranium exploration in Canada, which has about 30 per cent of the world's known 1.2 million tons of uranium reserves...
...The police were called and after five hours of discussion, three men were arrested and charged with "intimidating a tractor" (later changed to obstructing a public highway...
...At first we just wanted to see existing regulations enforced," McKenzie says...
...Men came up before or after work to serve a picket shift...
...Two detachments of Royal Canadian Mounted Police arrived, threatening to arrest the protestors...
...Falling plaster may have been the first concern of some Genelle residents...
...But he's a businessman and cares more about profits than his friends...
...the province's Fisherman's Union...
...And McKenzie, a retired union organizer, adds, "The fact these yoyos from Vancouver [500 miles away] arrived here without any notification or talking with us got the conservative element just as mad as the liberal community...
...I heard the 'copter, but didn't look up...
...That appeared to be the last straw for the consortium...
...Conference of the United Church...
...We became worried about the slurry from the mining going into China Creek and the problem of intercepting underground water systems with the drilling," Sally McKenzie says...
...So we started to learn how to make waves...
...The International Atomic Energy Agency predicts an annual world demand of up to four million tons of uranium by the year 2000, making the race for new uranium discoveries even more frantic...
...Daily picket captains organized picket schedules...
...But then they took the opportunity to move heavy drilling equipment up the hill...
...But even if we lived in a shack, I'd still be here...
...The provincial government has reversed an earlier decision not to hold a public inquiry on uranium regulations and now says a three-month investigation will be held this year...
...She watched it begin hauling bundles of core samples off the hill and dashed to the top of the peak...
...Three men were arrested and charged with "intimidating a tractor"' Genelle is primarily a working-class town, with many men traveling the eight miles down the road to Trail to work in the aluminum smelter there...
...Medical Association...
...British Columbia is additionally encouraging exploration with a $5 million mining exploration program, a revised mineral royalty scheme, and new tax incentives...
...the Sierra Club...
...McKenzie says Genelle citizens will keep fighting...
...The committee tried to contact provincial mining and environmental officials but got little response...

Vol. 43 • March 1979 • No. 3


 
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