Air quality concerns raised over proposed silica sand mine north of Winnipeg
WINNIPEG -- There are concerns about air quality if a proposed silica sand mine is approved in an area about 200 kilometers north of Winnipeg.
Canadian Premium Sand says the Wanipigow Sand Extraction Project will create jobs and bring a boost to the local economy. Opponents say environmental risks are too great.
Silica is a common substance. The Lung Association of Manitoba said silica is in sand, soil, cement and needs to be used safely.
"Anybody who is exposed to silica is at risk of significant disease and it can include cancer," said CEO Neil Johnston.
After Canadian Premium Sand gave its proposal to the province in December, officials from the Air Quality Section of Sustainable Development and Interlake East Regional Health Authority submitted comments with concerns to the province.
In one submission, a medical officer of health said, "This is very concerning. Silica dust is well-known to cause adverse health effects" and cited "exceedances of particulate matter".
"There is likelihood that the proposed project activities will contribute to the deterioration of ambient air quality in the area," another letter said.
In March the company updated models around air quality.
It said in the worst case scenario, new models do not exceed limits within the project site, with a possible exception within Seymourville because of unpaved public roads in periods of drought and high winds.
"CPS is fully aware of the health risks associated with silica exposure and is employing best available control technology to minimize these risks for our workers and the public. Our highest priority is the health and safety of our workers and the public," said Bronwyn Weaver, communications & community liaison officer for Canadian Premium Sand.
A provincial spokesperson said Wednesday the review process is still ongoing, and the comments submitted about the project will be factored into the decision making process.
Hollow Water First Nation Chief Larry Barker supports the project.
"The dust is going to be taken care of in the plant, dust control, that wasn't there for us before. It's not going to be factor,” said Barker.
The possibility of the mine doesn't sit well with Lisa Raven.
She's a spokesperson part of a small group fighting the project at a camp near the site.
"I don't particularly trust, you know, the chief and council or the company to choosing our health over profits, said Raven.
CANADIAN PREMIUM SAND WORKING TO MITIGATE AIR QUALITY ISSUES
The company said it’s taking measures, including:
- Under a dust mitigation plan, have an oversight committee with community members.
- Continuous air monitoring around the facility by an independent third party using real-time technology.
- Not stockpile the sand. Have it enclosed within buildings or silos until it’s shipped.
- Dust exposure prevention training for workers and protective equipment.
Weaver said Canadian Premium Sand’s models have to take into account the dust already in air before the mine opens.
If the project is approved, the company says if any problem arises, it plans to shut down the operation and do an investigation.
OPPONENTS HOLD IN MEETING IN WINNIPEG WEDNESDAY
Lisa Raven is also taking part in a meeting with people against the project Wednesday at 7 p.m. at the Fort Rouge Leisure Centre.
Organizers said it’s open to the public.
The company said it was not invited to attend.