Just because I'm a newspaper columnist doesn't mean I'm as dull as the Alberta election results would lead you to believe most of us are.
With the National Pundits' Day of Shame fading into history, it's time to show some of us have a lot more cunning than readers might think.
Which brings us to uranium mining, where there's a lesson worth sharing with readers everywhere. It was proven in the legislature last week to be an explosive investment opportunity, where you can realize a huge return on your ante. All you have to do is place a modest bet on the government doing something as clumsily as possible. You'll be flashing a titanium credit card and shopping for private jets in no time.
The uranium window may now be closed. But surely there are other worrisome, controversial minerals you can stake claims on.
Uranium mining sounds like a complicated, dangerous enterprise where it would be good to know what you're doing. But it's not like that at all. It's much more about thinking about mining for uranium, than it is about actually digging for it.
All you have to do is stake a uranium claim and then sit back and wait for the government to panic, overreact and do the wrong thing.
There was a time in B.C. when uranium prospects were taken halfway seriously. In the 1970s, some serious prospecting was done in the Okanagan and a uranium find was identified. Public alarm ensued and the government imposed a moratorium in 1980.
It eventually expired and a company called Boss Power acquired control of the claim. By 2008, there was enough nagging concern in the Okanagan about the potential for uranium mining that the Liberal government shut down the prospect again, by way of a news release "confirming" there will never be uranium mining in B.C.
It wasn't that easy behind the scenes. Although the inspector of mines has a legal obligation to process applications, senior officials ordered him to ignore that and just kill them.
Boss Power headed to court — which is where the questionable freeze came to light — and settled last fall for $30 million in compensation.
The settlement came up again last week when new documents came to light showing how exorbitant the payout was, compared to some evaluations. During hearings about how much compensation was due to Boss, a mining expert retained by the government put the value at about $5.6 million.
The company responded with a value of about $100 million. So another mining expert was named a friend of the court to come up with a strictly impartial value.
He declared the government estimate a bit too low, and the company's estimate way too high. He settled on $8.7 million.
So the question was: Why on earth did taxpayers pay more than three times over the most reasonable estimate to make this problem go away?
And as Energy Minister Rich Coleman showed last week, there's not the slightest inclination to explain any of this. "The louder you yell, the less interested I am in your question, because I've spent too much time laughing at the question," he told the NDP in the legislature last week.
He returned most NDP questions by dredging up an even worse horror story from the NDP days in power 14 years ago — the Carrier Lumber scandal.
While taxpayers pony up to pay for this clumsiness, I know what I'll be doing this weekend: Staking claims under the legislature for cinnibar (deadly mercury), then sitting back to wait for the big payday.
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