Members of a peace camp opposing the development of a silica sand mine project in Manitoba are celebrating a “small victory” after the company in charge of the project announced it has been delayed due to financial reasons.
“It was a relief. I figured at least we’re going to have some more time to educate more people,” Marcel Hardisty, one of the camp organizers, told APTN News by phone Wednesday.
Hardisty is part of a group from Hollow Water First Nation, located approximately 200 km northeast of Winnipeg, who set up Camp Morningstar last winter after exploration began on the project.
The group had concerns about the environmental impacts on the community including the destruction of a community trap line.
Canadian Premium Sand Inc. (CPS) is in charge of the project called Wanipigow Sand, which was approved last year to develop an industrial plant to extract silica sand from Hollow Water and the neighbouring communities of Seymourville and Manigotagan.
The project was slated to begin production last year but CPS now expects to begin production in early 2022.
The company had to start from scratch after the original design for the plant was deemed too costly.
“This set us back. We lost a year,” said Glenn Leroux, president and chief executive officer for CPS.
The company expected the project to cost $120 million but the old design came with a price tag of $220 million.
Leroux says the group is lining up investors and financing this year with the hopes of beginning construction next year.
“We spent the last several months going back into the project basically with a white sheet of paper so we had all the approvals and everything in place, and still have those in place, but if you can’t get the money, you can’t get the project,” he said.
“It’s hard to raise money if you’re connected to the oil and gas business because the oil and gas business is in a downturn and it’s under fire from every single environmentalist on the planet.”
Leroux believes the delay will not affect the final outcome of the project.
The Manitoba government approved the environmental licence necessary for the project in May 2019.
The company may have to apply for an extension as well as make changes to their environmental licence based off the new plant design.
This could result in new consultations processes because of the change.
However, part of the reason Camp Morningstar was created was because the group didn’t believe a proper consultation took place.
“It was show and tell by the company to gain support,” said Hardisty.
Hollow Water chief and council along with CPS hosted meetings with men, women, youth and elder groups.
Community leadership is in favour of the project.
Chief Larry Barker told APTN last year the industry would bring much needed jobs to his community.
Hardisty says in the meantime Camp Morningstar will remain up and running for educational purposes.
“We’re not shutting it down,” he said.
“We may have an international Sundance, for sure a land-based learning centre for young people to learn about the environment to learn about what’s in this forest, what’s beneath the silica sand.”
Camp Morningstar will be hosting a celebration for it’s one-year anniversary on Feb 15.