Mr. G. S. White (Haslings-Pelerborough):
I wish to speak briefly on the motion, and to deal particularly with the search for uranium ore. I do not know the exact number of producing uranium mines there are in the world today, but I doubt whether it exceeds four. Neither do I know the tonnage produced, but it is relatively small.
Canada has one such producing mine at Eldorado. While from the information available we believe there is a large deposit of this ore at Eldorado, the expense of operation is very high owing to the fact that all transportation must be either by plane, or, during the summer months, by water. Wages are high, but only in proportion to the cost of living at Eldorado. There is a constant turnover in labour because of the climate and the location of the mine a short distance from the Arctic circle.
As I have said, at the present time Canada has one producing uranium mine. Nevertheless there is every reason to believe that Canada has rich potentials in the Pre-Cambrian shield, which is the most important host rock for pitchblende. With a determined effort and proper incentive, Canada should become a leader in uranium production. Uranium is and will be found to be a scarce mineral. Our security as a nation, and the security of the western countries, depends on Canada and the western countries obtaining a far greater supply of this mineral than is produced at present.
The recent announcement in this house in reference to the atomic bomb explosion in Russia has made us more conscious of the source of atomic energy that lies buried in Canada. In May of this year the Minister of Trade and Commerce (Mr. Howe) addressed the graduating class of engineers at McGill university, and I quote from a news report of his address:
A Canadian cabinet minister Friday night spelled out a field of development in the future that is "almost beyond imagination."
That field, Trade Minister Howe told engineering graduates of McGill university, is in atomic energy over which "military implications" have thrown a "temporary cloud of secrecy."
While "the international situation may delay progress temporarily, the day will surely come," he said "when the peaceful use and application of this new and fantastically large source of energy from atoms will certainly open up a new and potentially great field of engineering, technology, industry and opportunity."
Canada is in the "front line of this the most exciting scientific venture of all times," Mr. Howe said in an address prepared for delivery.
I think all hon. members will agree with that statement; but I would ask the minister if he is satisfied that at the present time the government is doing all that can be done to assist in the discovery of uranium ore. At page 11 of the third annual report of the
[Mr Gourd (Chapleau).]
atomic energy control board for 1948-49 I find these two paragraphs under the heading "Prospecting and mining":
The establishment by the government of a guaranteed minimum price of $2.75 per pound of contained uranium oxide (U3O8) in acceptable ores or concentrates was announced in March, 1948 . . .
The Department of Mines and Resources offered to make, without charge, radioactivity tests on samples sent in by prospectors and, where the results of these tests warranted, to make further chemical and other tests and thorium determinations. The response taxed the facilities of the department to the utmost, more than 3,000 samples having been dealt with since April, 1948.
You will note, Mr. Speaker, that the price set by the government is $2.75 per pound for contained uranium oxide in acceptable ore concentrates. I would point out that the price paid by the government of the United States is $3.50 per pound; and with the recent devaluation of the Canadian dollar our government will receive $3.85 for each pound sold to the United States government, for which the government of Canada will pay only $2.75.
In the second paragraph I read it is stated that the facilities of the Department of Mines and Resources were taxed to the utmost to conduct these tests. I would suggest to the Minister of Mines and Resources that the facilities of his department are totally inadequate to help uranium producers. I believe the department needs many more expert mineralogists and much more technical equipment to handle the ever-increasing volume of work sent in from the uranium fields. There are often long delays; I know of some cases in which months have elapsed before producers have received a full and final analysis of their samples.
I suggest also to the minister that his department is not sufficiently active in promoting field work in connection with the search for uranium ore. I believe it would be of great benefit to prospectors and miners if officials of his department could make examinations of new properties and report thereon. A recent press dispatch announced that the government of the United States will pay a prize of $10,000 for new discoveries of uranium ore. No prize of any kind has been offered by the Canadian government for new finds, nor has this government provided capital to bring new uranium mines into production. While I firmly believe in the system of free enterprise, in view of the fact that our very destiny may hang on the discovery and development of uranium ore, and in view of the time element involved, I believe the government should provide the necessary funds.
If something of this kind is not done, large United States mining companies may take over and control our uranium mines. Under
the present regulations, all uranium ore produced in this country must be sold to and controlled by the Canadian government, but the picture might become very different if our uranium mines should be owned and controlled by United States interests. In such case any government here certainly would be under great pressure from the United States owners. Let us suppose that the du Pont interests obtained control of important Canadian uranium mines. Does any hon. member honestly believe that under present conditions, with our whole economy, our defence plans, in fact every phase of our national life, bound up with United States policy, any Canadian government would not be subjected to the most extreme pressure from United States owners of such mines?
The county of Hastings, which forms part of the riding I have the honour to represent, has shown every promise of becoming a large uranium ore producer. I am sure the Minister of Trade and Commerce is aware of the assay results of the samples of uranium ore from that county. If those properties prove out as the samples would indicate, Hastings county will be in the forefront of uranium ore production. The deposits which have been located so far are close to railway and hydro facilities, and also to provincial highways. In every respect the cost of production would be much less than the cost at Eldorado.
I would point out to hon. members that a deposit of uranium ore is very different from a deposit of iron, gold, silver, copper or any other mineral. The initial problems are of great technical complexity. In my opinion to locate a deposit of uranium ore is from ten to twenty times more difficult than to locate a deposit of gold. I hardly need to emphasize the great need for laboratories, technical staff and financial assistance in the search for and production of this strategic mineral, nor do I need to point out that the country with the most uranium will be in a position of unparalleled strength.
In conclusion, Mr. Speaker, I offer the following suggestions to the government in connection with their policy concerning uranium production in Canada:
1. That the government pay $5 per pound for uranium oxide.
2. That the government construct and operate a large laboratory to assist miners and producers.
3. That the government provide a field corps of geologists and mineralogists to visit and advise on all mines and prospects.
4. That the government offer a prize at least equal to the $10,000 offered by the United States government to every individual who discovers a deposit that develops into a commercial mine.
Assistance to Prospectors
5. That, where necessary, the government provide capital to bring mines into early production.
6. That the committee on atomic energy, promised by the Minister of Trade and Commerce a few days ago, be set up as soon as possible.
Subtopic: PROPOSED FEDERAL ASSISTANCE TO PROSPECTORS