'More risk': Communities concerned about traffic and highway safety of proposed silica sand mine
If a proposed mine is approved north of Winnipeg, trucks carrying silica sand could make nearly 100 trips to and from Winnipeg each day.
The Wanipigow Sand Extraction Project is located on the east side of Lake Winnipeg, a one way trip that would clock 200-kilometres on the odometer.
Canadian Premium Sand, the company behind the development, said trucks would travel on Highway 304 and Highway 59.
“When you have more traffic on the highway, you have more risk,” said Jack Brisco, reeve of the Rural Municipality of Alexander, an area south of the development where people live and go to the lake.
The company wants to truck their product on highways 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
“It's narrow, windy and very old,” said Brisco. “We want to make sure the highways are looked after and maintained and are able to support that kind of traffic."
The company said three to four trucks per hour -- one leaving about every 15 minutes -- will transport the sand to Winnipeg, where it will be loaded onto rail cars.
The company said the trucks are designed to contain sand and fluid, will be filled in the plant and be completely enclosed.
"We'd like to see the highway twinned at least to 304 and if it is 304, there are some really bad spots on that highway that definitely need to be fixed, to make them safe for cars, never mind semis," Brisco said.
He said it sounds like the project could be a big boost to the local economy and people want to make sure highways are safe.
The company wants to mine between one and two million tonnes of silica sand a year, and believes there's enough in the area to operate for more than 50 years.
The plan is to wash and dry the sand in a local plant before it’s shipped to Alberta, where it will be used for fracking oil and gas.
Hollow Water First Nation Chief Larry Barker admits traffic has been one of the biggest concerns.
“We've been living with that for years,” said Barker.
“We had a lot of pulp trucks, a lot of fuel trucks going up north, so we are very careful in that, so we know the dangers of that and we are addressing it,” he said.
Canadian Premium Sand said it's working with Manitoba Infrastructure.
"To identify those areas that are the priorities to make sure we are contributing to whatever fixes, so the roads can be safe for not only trucks but for the rest of the community,” said Bronwyn Weaver, a communication and community liaison officer with the company.
PROVINCE REVIEWING PROPOSAL
The province said in an email to CTV News that it will talk with the company about highway operations and possible modifications.
The province said an environment act proposal is being reviewed.
It didn't provide a date when the project could get the green light.