As an adventure seeker, photographer and someone who enjoys the outdoors, the field of environmental consulting appealed to me from a young age. I was introduced to environmental work by my dad and pursued an educational background that would allow me to help mitigate environmental impacts, travel and get to work in remote and unique environments. This week I returned from a trip to Northern Saskatchewan.
The north in the winter can be a cold and desolate place. This trip was to do environmental and water quality sampling around a fully decommissioned Uranium mine located 11 hours north of Saskatoon.
Due to the remote nature of the work, safety and planning are a huge component to every campaign. With the nearest town located 2-3 hours away staying in a camp is the only option for most of this type of work. Winter driving, towing, snowmobiling, working on ice, wildlife, working outdoors for 10hrs a day in temperatures as low as -35c without the windchill are just a few of the challenges we encountered.
The daily drive to the site was over an hour each way, in the dark. Sunrise is at 10am and sunset was around 4pm. The daily commute was made interesting by the resident malamute huskies that roam and hunt around the camp, and even wolves on the road.
Uranium has become a very hot topic in the last year and the fallout of Fukushima has raised many concerns related to the safety of nuclear power. From my personal observations Uranium mining has a much smaller footprint on the land than many other types of mining. Radioactivity however is a serious environmental and human concern and limiting unnecessary exposure to radiation is the key. With that said, you are exposed to radiation when flying on an airplane and eating a banana.
The ongoing environmental monitoring on sites like this help ensure that active and decommissioned mines are assessed and the use of the land can return to its natural setting. Trappers and hunters historically frequented the area have already started returning to use the lands. The re-vegetation and restoration of ponds and used as tailings ponds provide a promising outlook for the future of the area.
Canada has such rich and diverse natural resources, it is how we manage and sustain them that will ultimately determine our future as a nation.