A Canadian environmental group is angry about recent mining exploration in the Cat Lake area of Nopiming Provincial Park, and wants the land protected instead.

Eric Reder is with Wilderness Committee.

Earlier this week, on an ice fishing trip he discovered workers with heavy equipment in the forest and patches of land with cut-down trees.

"Disturb a park? This is atrocious," said Reder.

"Parks aren't a place for economic benefit. Parks are put in place for the health of our planet.”

Reder grabbed his camera and started documenting. He wants to see a ban on mining exploration and extraction in Manitoba’s provincial parks.

"A park is not supposed to have these activities,” he said. 

Manitoba’s department of Sustainable Development said Nopiming Provincial Park has a history of mineral exploration and extraction dating back to the 1950s. 

It said there are 29 mining claims in the Cat Lake area assigned to seven companies which exist in a land use category of the park, where the main purpose is to permit commercial resource development or extraction.

Equitorial Exploration drills 8 holes: CEO Jack Bal

B.C. company, Equitorial Exploration is one of the companies working in the Cat Lake area. 

Reached by phone Friday, CEO Jack Bal told CTV News crews recently drilled eight holes over eight days, and the work ended on Friday. 

Bal said crews were working in a marsh and did not take down a lot of trees. 

Bal said there is lithium hosted in dikes, and the company is happy with the discovery.

He said the demand for lithium is expected to skyrocket, because it’s used in batteries for cell phones and vehicles.

‘Early phase’: Minister of Sustainable Development 

Rochelle Squires is the Minister of Sustainable Development.

On Friday, she said out of 353,000 acres of land in the park, seven out of 24 possible acres have been explored for lithium deposits. 

Squires said this is a minimal footprint and a mine is far from being approved.

“This is just the early early phase,” said Squires. 

"If the companies discover there are significant lithium deposits and want to move forward with extraction, that requires an environmental act license which requires full public consultation and would require ministerial authority,” she said. 

Squires said the timber being removed will be reused by the park and reforestation efforts are planned.

Mining in Manitoba Parks

In a statement to CTV News, the department said there are other parks like Grass River Provincial Park, north of The Pas, which allow mining.

“While recreational development and access land use categories may allow for mining activities, it would only be permitted if it does not compromise the recreation or access values of the land use category.”

Squires said the government is committed to protecting spaces and species at risk.

“We also do believe that we have different land use categories so that we can have development, we can have tourism in our parks, we allow certain amounts of development, very contained, very specific and very small development in our parks,” Squires said. 

"That has always been the model that our provincial parks have operated on and we believe it’s sustainable.”