Wanipigow Sand Extraction Project - construction proceeding before environmental license is provided
On Monday March 11, I asked in Question Period about the development of the Silica Sand Mine near Hollow Water First Nation. We have heard from several sources that construction is proceeding at the mine site even though the environmental review and the indigenous consultations have not been completed.
Development of Silica Sand Mine - Health and Environmental Concerns
Hon. Jon Gerrard (River Heights):
There are issues which need to be addressed with the Wanipigow sand extraction project. The government's own departments' comments on the proposal put forward by Canadian Premium Sands say there are very concerning health issues related to air quality, as silica dust is well known to cause adverse health effects, including acute and chronic silicosis. There are also concerns about groundwater impact, of the handling of tailings and about the lack of a remediation plan when the mine closes.
When will these critical issues be addressed?
Hon. Blaine Pedersen (Minister of Growth, Enterprise and Trade): Well, Madam Speaker, I've got a really good MP, so there's no need for me to run federally.
In regards to Canadian Premium Sand and their application, it's getting an environmental review or having an environmental review done right now. Section 35 consultations are going on.
But I really wonder why this–when Canadian Premium Sand first brought their proposal forward, they said they could hire 150 local people. To date, they've got 250 applications in.
Why is this member against local economic development?
Madam Speaker: The honourable member for River Heights, on a final supplementary.
Mineral and Timber Extraction - Environmental Oversight
Hon. Jon Gerrard (River Heights): Madam Speaker, the forestry and peatlands branch of Manitoba's Sustainable Development Department says any further development requiring timber removal (which apparently is ongoing) that is beyond the exploration that has already occurred should be put on hold until an environmental act licence and indigenous consultation are completed and approved.
In 2013, under the NDP, a whole mine was built before the environmental licence was issued. Is the Pallister government now joining the NDP in his approach? Is the Pallister government going to be as bad at handling environmental issues as the NDP was?
Hon. Rochelle Squires (Minister of Sustainable Development): Well, thank you very much, Madam Speaker. I'm going to try to explain the process for the member's benefit, but, unfortunately, I cannot make him understand the process. So let's walk through this.
The company comes to us and they apply for a licence. And that is what we're doing. During this process, we hear from a lot of user groups of the resources, including folks in my own department, and we hear their feedback and we work through all the issues before issuing a licence for the company to operate.
We are also doing this in conjunction with a section 35 consultation that is occurring. And those things have to have to happen before the licence is issued.
We're following the process and we're working towards environmental sustainability as these projects move forward. [But for the process to have any credibility, construction should not be occurring before the permit is issued. The way the Pallister government is proceeding is a problem in that it is letting construction occur before the environmental review and indigenous consultations are completed.]