There's no reason at all to object to the decision of Greg Rickford, the Minister of Natural Resources, to allow an Australian company, Paladin Energy Ltd., to develop a uranium mine in Newfoundland and Labrador, 140 kilometres northeast of Happy Valley-Goose Bay, with Australians holding the majority of the shares.
On the contrary, the odd thing is that Paladin had to seek permission to do so, as a foreign corporation – over and above the similarly unnecessary process of the foreign investment review under the Investment Canada Act, with its mysterious "net benefit" criterion. In the rejected takeover by BHP Billiton of Potash Corp. of Saskatchewan in 2010, Ottawa even more mysteriously declared Potash to be a "strategic asset," not a term used in the ICA.
The federal government has had a "non-resident ownership policy in the uranium mining sector" since 1987. The policy allows for an exemption from the requirement of at least 51-per-cent Canadian ownership if there aren't enough Canadians who want to build the prospective uranium mine in question.
In March, 2011, a devastating tsunami caused the meltdown of the Fukushima nuclear power plant in Japan and the country shut down all but two of its reactors.
And before that, in 2000, Germany began to phase out its nuclear energy program but bought nuclear-generated electricity from its next-door neighbour, France – perhaps a less nervous country.
So demand for uranium has been down for some time. Investment in Canadian uranium should be a welcome shot-in-the-arm for a depressed industry, and there's every likelihood of a rise in demand a few years hence, as uranium supplies become scarce. In particular, Saskatchewan would benefit from a revival of its uranium industry.
It's not as if Australia were Iran, a likely violator of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, in need of strenuous sanctions. Let the Aussies mine!
Editor's Note: The original newspaper version of this editorial and an earlier digital version incorrectly said the March 2011 meltdown of the Fukushima nuclear power plant in Japan killed almost 16,000 people. In fact, it was a devastating tsunami that killed those people and shut down two reactors at the plant.