Letter to the Winnipeg Free Press: Proposed Silica Sand Mine

Winnipeg Free Press
1355 Mountain Avenue
Winnipeg, Manitoba, R2X 3B6.                                                                   September 17, 2020


Re:  Proposed Silica Sand Mine

The Manitoba Prospectors and Developers Association is an organization based in Winnipeg, to support responsible exploration and mining in the province. The purpose of this letter is to express our concerns regarding an article by Don Sullivan that appeared in the Free Press on August 19, 2020. In his letter, he stated his issues about the proposed silica sand mine at Vivian, south of Beausejour.

Mining sand in the province is not a new endeavor. It was mined in the Beausejour region from 1906 to 1913, to supply silica for a glass factory. Sand is comprised mainly of silica, which happens to be the most common rock-building element on the planet. In fact, silica sand is a main component of beaches everywhere, and we love them. It is a mystery to us what the environmental impact could be from mining and processing silica sand.   The statements concerning groundwater threats are contradictory, first the article says that the mine will be a threat to groundwater quality and then that the water extracted from the aquifer would be toxic.  If the groundwater is toxic, it is unlikely to be a good aquifer.  With regards to the current proposal for a silica sand mine, all the concerns that are raised in the article concerning threats to surface water and groundwater quality are readily addressed through proven technologies.  We realize some people are unfamiliar with the processes and the permitting process, but dedicated, qualified people are charged with meeting government licensing standards.

The article assumes that the main purpose of the sand extracted from the mine will be for hydrodynamic fracturing (fracking) for petroleum extraction. It is not our intent to support or criticize hydrodynamic fracturing at this time. However, silica sand has a wide range of applications including production of silicon metal required for electronic components and solar panels, construction materials, water filtration, art materials and used for environmental investigations for completing monitoring wells and a great variety of other household and industrial uses. The silica sand in this area is of very high purity, making it particularly suitable for the production of optical-grade silica products such as fiber optic cable and silicon metal used to make solar cells. Quite possibly, with available sand and hydroelectric power, it may lead to spin-off industries like the construction of solar panels locally, which would contribute to low carbon energy production.

Production of the sand here in Manitoba will ensure that it will be responsibly produced under a legal regime that requires the strictest environmental safeguards. Successful opposition to mining projects in the province and in Canada leads to their development in other jurisdictions that do not have the best safety practices, strong environmental stewardship and a strong belief in human rights. Demonizing an industry that helped build this country, only drives this production into places with lessor respect for people and the environment.  If there is a demand, people will find a source.

Yours truly,

Tom Lewis

President of the Manitoba Prospectors and Developers Association.