04/02/2013 14:32 EDT | Updated 06/02/2013 05:12 EDT

Quebec Crees welcome temporary moratorium on uranium mining

The government of Quebec has put a temporary moratorium on uranium development.

On Thursday, Quebec environment minister Yves-François Blanchet announced the provincial environmental review board — called the Bureau d’audiences publiques sur l’environnement (BAPE) — will hold public hearings on the uranium sector in Quebec.

The Grand Council of the Crees welcomes the news because it means Strateco's Matoush uranium project, and any other uranium development in the province, will not go ahead while the hearings are underway.

Strateco’s stock prices fell Thursday in wake of the announcement.

Mistissini, Que., Chief Richard Shecapio said that although the temporary ban is good, the province’s environmental review process does not recognize Cree rights as set out in the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement of 1975:

“The decision to proceed with the generic BAPE process is something. We want to make sure at this point that there's proper consultation and ensure that Cree rights are integrated into the process,” said Shecapio.

The mayor of Chibougamau, Que., has said the Matoush project would be good for the people of nearby Chibougamau because it would provide much-needed jobs.

But Manon Cyr said province-wide hearings will settle this controversial question once and for all.

“What I think is important, and what we told the minister, is that we look at studies and consultations in the most rational way possible. When we talk about uranium it's always very emotional. But we have to take the time to really look at the question, and look at how to do it well, if we do it,” said Cyr.

The Matoush project is the most advanced uranium project in Quebec. It is in the Otish Mountains near Mistissini in the northern part of the province.

The Grand Council of the Crees is opposed to all uranium development in Eeyou Istchee (Cree territory), saying the promise of short-term jobs is not worth the potential impacts on Cree health and the environment. The Grand Council passed its own moratorium on uranium development in the territory at its annual general assembly last summer.