Critics of proposed Manitoba silica sand mine applaud environmental report that casts question on challenge basic safety

Critics of proposed Manitoba silica sand mine applaud environmental report that casts question on challenge basic safety

A new environmental report on a proposed wide-scale silica sand mining operation in southern Manitoba implies it should really only transfer ahead immediately after the province gets additional authorized suggestions and there is a greater knowing of achievable hazards, though some argue the province has all the evidence it needs to destroy the project now.

The Clean up Ecosystem Commission report out Friday contains eight recommendations regarding a proposal by Sio Silica that has stirred debate in the rural municipality of Springfield, just east of Winnipeg.

The Alberta-based mostly organization would like to drill up to 7,700 wells across east and southeastern Manitoba to extract pure silica sand. 

“The fee does not have adequate confidence that the level of danger posed to an vital supply of consuming water for the region has been adequately defined,” reads a portion of the 105-site doc released by the Clean Ecosystem Fee, an arms-length provincial agency mandated to deliver information and suggestions to Manitoba’s surroundings minister.

“The mining tactic proposed by Sio Silica does have advantage if the risks posed to the good quality of water in the affected aquifers can be better defined and the management of those hazards can be sufficiently resolved.”

Its authors suggest the project should only push on if the province imposes significant conditions on mining activity.

A woman with shoulder-length gray hair wearing a blue shirt stands in front of a garden while speaking to a reporter.
Tangi Bell is president of Our Line in the Sand, a team that has advocated in opposition to the Sio Silica sand mining procedure proposed in eastern Manitoba. (Travis Golby/CBC)

Tangi Bell, president of Our Line in the Sand, a group that has advocated towards the challenge, said the fee should’ve absent even additional.

“They didn’t strongly endorse to deny, prohibit this task, and that is what it should really be executing,” she said.

“It does not have advantage. This is the most unethical venture that I have at any time viewed deemed. It should under no circumstances have been regarded, must by no means have been tabled, it should’ve been thrown out ideal from the get-go.”

The Manitoba govt really should seek out authorized opinion on how the proposed designs harmonize with components of the Groundwater and H2o Perfectly Act and the Mines and Minerals Act about the implications of drilling and extraction, the report states.

Following that, if the undertaking can go in advance lawfully, the commission suggests a lot more scientific, engineering and chance assessments be completed.

Only then should really it commence “on a move-intelligent foundation to improve the stage of self confidence that no significant adverse consequences will occur to impair the high-quality and quantity of water obtainable from the afflicted aquifers.”

“As a general theory, entire-scale generation really should only progress if and when the body of scientific and engineering evidence confirms that the threats are adequately comprehended and workable,” reads a single of a number of recommendations.

View | What silica mining critics anxiety:

What silica mining critics concern

What critics worry could come about if silica mining in southeastern Manitoba is permitted.

The fee was predicted to provide its report to governing administration this 7 days as one of the closing potential hurdles to Alberta-dependent Sio Silica’s proposed mining functions in east and southeast Manitoba, which consists of options to extract 22 million tonnes of extremely-pure silica sand found 50 metres down.

Silica is made use of in the manufacturing of solar panels, semiconductors and new batteries. Sio Silica proposes drilling down and piping out a sand-drinking water slurry that would be despatched to a processing facility, which would then take care of the drinking water and re-inject it again into the floor. 

A single recommendation from Friday’s report would call for the firm to show how that re-injection course of action would work.

The report now goes to Manitoba Atmosphere Minister Kevin Klein, who will have ultimate say.

Surroundings minister to come to a decision

Klein explained for the duration of a Friday information meeting the province will evaluation the report, which could choose time.

“We will move at the tempo that our environmental specialists and our committee individuals need to transfer.… No determination will be made unless the full process is completed extensively,” Klein explained.

“This is a contentious concern, and it is really contentious for the reason that of protection,” he explained. “The security of Manitobans’ drinking h2o comes to start with.”

The commission suggests Klein strike a undertaking-monitoring committee with senior officials inside of Manitoba’s natural environment and climate ministry, along with complex gurus from provincial mining, groundwater, environmental licensing and enforcement divisions, as perfectly as council customers from appropriate municipalities.

A handful of sand.
Silica is employed in the creation of photo voltaic panels, semiconductors and new batteries. (Gary Solilak/CBC)

That committee must be envisioned to share growth checking experiences with the community, the fee reported.

Sio Silica stated in a statement it recognizes the time and effort the Clear Environment Fee set into the evaluation of its proposal.

The business is “fully commited to continual exploration, knowledge analysis, operational improvements, environmental checking and partnerships with Manitoba corporations,” Sio Silica lover Sander Duncanson claimed in a assertion.

The enterprise aims to be “the world’s most environmentally helpful producer of higher purity silica,” the statement additional.

Mining problems some citizens

The mining options have drawn the ire of some people and community elected officers. Concerns in the community mainly relate to the likelihood of groundwater contamination from drilling.

A woman holds up a sign of drop of water with the text that reads 'Save our water.'
Jackie Mazur, who has lived in the rural municipality of Springfield for most of her everyday living, holds up a sign that reads ‘Save our water’ on Monday exterior the RM council workplaces in Oakbank, Man. (Bryce Hoye/CBC)

Some people and councillors in the rural municipality of Springfield voiced worries at two council meetings in the past two months. 

On Monday, the RM council voted through zoning amendments necessary in order for Sio Silica’s proposed processing plant to be developed in the community of Vivian.

But a movement to enter into a progress settlement with the company did not pass, sending discussions between council and Sio Silica back again to the drawing table.

Sio Silica has claimed the operation would not damage the ecosystem and could convey in billions of pounds to Manitoba’s economic system.

‘Worst-scenario scenario’ 

Among the the other Thoroughly clean Ecosystem Fee report tips are a stipulation Sio Silica have out a danger assessment that considers “worst-situation situations” — including collapse of the limestone layer — and the feasible ripple effects and remediation efforts of those people situations. 

Sio Silica must also perform assessments that increase to the human body of evidence on risk to assure a “increased degree of self-confidence” in the environmental protection of the job, including achievable hazards connected with proposed drilling techniques, the report states.

Enjoy | How the mining procedure would operate:

How the mining would operate

How Sio Silica hopes to extract sand from down below the floor of southeastern Manitoba.

It also endorses the firm have out comprehensive-scale extraction exams on one proposed properly cluster in individual, targeting 21,000 tonnes of sand.

Extraction test wells ought to be monitored for adjust all through drilling as a way of estimating how probable cavities are to expand in condition and dimension more than time, the report claims.

Sio Silica need to also deliver h2o and squander management options, very well modification plans, groundwater monitoring and mitigation ideas, erosion and sediment command system, environmental crisis response programs and more, it suggests.

The commission also would like an evaluation on the cumulative outcomes of the operation over its anticipated 24-calendar year span in the context of other current and long run initiatives in the area.

NDP, environmental group applaud report

That the proposal didn’t include points like a cumulative effects report signals the province did not check with for it, and it should “hardly ever have handed the initial section of ecosystem and local weather display screen,” according to the Manitoba Eco-Network and Our Line in the Sand.

“It is time to set a halt to this shoddy, piecemeal approach to evaluating this sort of a big and dangerous undertaking that will effects countless numbers of individuals for many years to come,” the groups, represented by the General public Interest Law Centre, claimed in a statement.

A map of southeastern Manitoba, showing Winnipeg and mineral claims to the east, southeast and south of the city.
The parts in yellow demarcate Sio Silica’s subsurface mineral promises in southern Manitoba, according to files submitted with Manitoba’s Clean up Atmosphere Commission. (CBC News Graphics)

The statement asks Klein to reject the licensing proposal until environmental hazards are much more entirely deemed, and to not entertain it once more right up until the firm has complied with all eight of the commission’s suggestions.

The Opposition NDP said the report would make obvious there are reputable fears surrounding the proposal as it stands and mirrored Klein’s sentiments about the need to “consider time to get it right.”

“With just two months absent from an election campaign, Premier [Heather] Stefanson and Minister Klein must dedicate to pursuing the caretaker convention and chorus from generating any final decision on this project in advance of the up coming governing administration is chosen,” NDP MLA Mark Wasyliw (Fort Garry) claimed in a assertion.

Liberal Leader Dougald Lamont (St. Boniface) explained he thinks the government desires the challenge to go forward, but it should really in its place close the course of action now.

“Specialists in water, they’ve mentioned this has never been finished ahead of, they can’t determine out how to do it with out having sinkholes,” he claimed.

“We basically have enormous deposits of sand elsewhere which are presently being mined without the need of obtaining to set our largest aquifer at hazard.”