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

A new environmental report on a proposed extensive-scale silica sand mining operation in southern Manitoba implies it ought to only shift ahead following the province receives a lot more authorized suggestions and there is a greater comprehending of doable pitfalls, while some argue the province has all the proof it requirements to kill the project now.

The Clean Atmosphere Commission report out Friday incorporates 8 suggestions about a proposal by Sio Silica that has stirred discussion in the rural municipality of Springfield, just east of Winnipeg.

The Alberta-based firm desires to drill up to 7,700 wells across east and southeastern Manitoba to extract pure silica sand. 

“The commission does not have ample self-assurance that the amount of threat posed to an critical resource of consuming drinking water for the area has been adequately described,” reads a part of the 105-web site doc unveiled by the Clean Setting Commission, an arms-length provincial agency mandated to offer guidance and recommendations to Manitoba’s surroundings minister.

“The mining method proposed by Sio Silica does have advantage if the threats posed to the high-quality of h2o in the influenced aquifers can be much better defined and the administration of these threats can be sufficiently addressed.”

Its authors endorse the project should only push on if the province imposes significant conditions on mining action.

Tangi Bell is president of Our Line in the Sand, a team that has advocated in opposition to the Sio Silica sand mining operation proposed in japanese Manitoba. (Travis Golby/CBC)

Tangi Bell, president of Our Line in the Sand, a group that has advocated in opposition to the project, claimed the fee should’ve long gone even additional.

“They failed to strongly advise to deny, prohibit this task, and which is what it ought to be performing,” she mentioned.

“It does not have benefit. This is the most unethical job that I’ve at any time found viewed as. It should never have been regarded, really should by no means have been tabled, it should’ve been thrown out right from the get-go.”

The Manitoba federal government should find lawful feeling on how the proposed strategies harmonize with aspects of the Groundwater and H2o Properly Act and the Mines and Minerals Act relating to the implications of drilling and extraction, the report states.

Next that, if the job can go forward legally, the commission endorses more scientific, engineering and hazard assessments be completed.

Only then must it commence “on a action-intelligent foundation to increase the degree of self-confidence that no considerable adverse effects will occur to impair the quality and quantity of drinking water offered from the influenced aquifers.”

“As a common principle, complete-scale creation ought to only continue if and when the physique of scientific and engineering evidence confirms that the hazards are adequately comprehended and workable,” reads a single of several suggestions.

Enjoy | What silica mining critics fear:

What silica mining critics panic

What critics fear could occur if silica mining in southeastern Manitoba is permitted.

The commission was anticipated to provide its report to governing administration this 7 days as a single of the last probable hurdles to Alberta-based Sio Silica’s proposed mining functions in east and southeast Manitoba, which incorporates ideas to extract 22 million tonnes of extremely-pure silica sand found 50 metres down.

Silica is employed in the production of solar panels, semiconductors and new batteries. Sio Silica proposes drilling down and piping out a sand-h2o slurry that would be despatched to a processing facility, which would then handle the drinking water and re-inject it again into the floor. 

Just one recommendation from Friday’s report would involve the firm to exhibit how that re-injection course of action would perform.

The report now goes to Manitoba Ecosystem Minister Kevin Klein, who will have remaining say.

Environment minister to choose

Klein mentioned during a Friday news conference the province will evaluation the report, which could choose time.

“We will transfer at the pace that our environmental authorities and our committee people require to shift.… No conclusion will be manufactured except the overall approach is finished totally,” Klein claimed.

“This is a contentious problem, and it is contentious mainly because of security,” he stated. “The safety of Manitobans’ drinking drinking water comes initially.”

The commission recommends Klein strike a undertaking-monitoring committee with senior officers within Manitoba’s setting and local climate ministry, along with technical experts from provincial mining, groundwater, environmental licensing and enforcement divisions, as very well as council users from suitable municipalities.

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

That committee should be envisioned to share advancement checking reviews with the community, the fee said.

Sio Silica claimed in a assertion it recognizes the time and exertion the Thoroughly clean Environment Commission place into the review of its proposal.

The business is “dedicated to continual investigation, information investigation, operational advancements, environmental checking and partnerships with Manitoba organizations,” Sio Silica husband or wife Sander Duncanson mentioned in a assertion.

The company aims to be “the world’s most environmentally welcoming producer of superior purity silica,” the assertion added.

Mining anxieties some residents

The mining options have drawn the ire of some inhabitants and local elected officials. Concerns in the community largely 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, retains up a signal that reads ‘Save our water’ on Monday outdoors the RM council places of work in Oakbank, Male. (Bryce Hoye/CBC)

Some residents and councillors in the rural municipality of Springfield voiced fears at two council conferences in the previous two months. 

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

But a movement to enter into a growth settlement with the organization did not move, sending conversations amongst council and Sio Silica again to the drawing table.

Sio Silica has stated the procedure would not hurt the environment and could carry in billions of pounds to Manitoba’s economic climate.

‘Worst-situation scenario’ 

Amongst the other Clear Surroundings Fee report suggestions are a stipulation Sio Silica carry out a risk assessment that considers “worst-case eventualities” — which include collapse of the limestone layer — and the doable ripple results and remediation efforts of those eventualities. 

Sio Silica need to also perform checks that incorporate to the physique of evidence on chance to make certain a “bigger amount of self confidence” in the environmental basic safety of the job, like feasible hazards associated with proposed drilling solutions, the report states.

Enjoy | How the mining procedure would get the job done:

How the mining would work

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

It also endorses the corporation have out total-scale extraction exams on a single proposed very well cluster in particular, targeting 21,000 tonnes of sand.

Extraction test wells need to be monitored for alter for the duration of drilling as a way of estimating how probable cavities are to develop in form and measurement over time, the report suggests.

Sio Silica need to also produce h2o and squander administration plans, nicely modification ideas, groundwater monitoring and mitigation programs, erosion and sediment manage program, environmental unexpected emergency response options and far more, it says.

The fee also wishes an evaluation on the cumulative results of the procedure over its predicted 24-calendar year span in the context of other current and future tasks in the location.

NDP, environmental group applaud report

That the proposal didn’t include issues like a cumulative consequences report signals the province didn’t inquire for it, and it should “by no means have passed the original office of atmosphere and weather monitor,” according to the Manitoba Eco-Network and Our Line in the Sand.

“It is time to set a prevent to this shoddy, piecemeal solution to assessing these kinds of a huge and dangerous task that will affect thousands of people today for decades to arrive,” the groups, represented by the Public Fascination Regulation Centre, stated in a assertion.

A map of southeastern Manitoba, showing Winnipeg and mineral claims to the east, southeast and south of the city.
The places in yellow demarcate Sio Silica’s subsurface mineral claims in southern Manitoba, in accordance to paperwork submitted with Manitoba’s Clean Ecosystem Fee. (CBC News Graphics)

The statement asks Klein to reject the licensing proposal until finally environmental threats are extra entirely thought of, and to not entertain it yet again till the firm has complied with all 8 of the commission’s recommendations.

The Opposition NDP said the report will make clear there are authentic worries surrounding the proposal as it stands and mirrored Klein’s sentiments more than the need to have to “get time to get it appropriate.”

“With just two months away from an election marketing campaign, Leading [Heather] Stefanson and Minister Klein should dedicate to adhering to the caretaker convention and chorus from producing any last decision on this job just before the following authorities is preferred,” NDP MLA Mark Wasyliw (Fort Garry) reported in a statement.

Liberal Leader Dougald Lamont (St. Boniface) explained he thinks the government wishes the challenge to shift ahead, but it ought to alternatively conclude the method now.

“Specialists in water, they’ve mentioned this has never been completed right before, they can’t figure out how to do it devoid of possessing sinkholes,” he said.

“We basically have massive deposits of sand somewhere else which are previously becoming mined without having having to put our most significant aquifer at hazard.”