Hollow Water members set to deliver petition in last ditch attempt to stop mine

An In-depth exploration into the timeline and approval of the silica sand mine.

People who are opposing a silica mine in Hollow Water First Nation say they have a petition with 6,000 names on it who want the project stopped.

A land protector group in opposition to the mine said they still haven’t received “meaningful consultation” from the Manitoba Government, Hollow Water chief and council, and Alberta-based company Canadian Premium Sand (CPS) – the project’s proponent.

Their concerns range from how the mine will affect the surrounding environment and animals, to Indigenous rights and traditional interests like uninterrupted access to ceremony grounds and trapping.

Reg Simard, a member of Hollow Water said he worries the natural beauty of the territory won’t be around much longer.

“Our whole community is going to change and I don’t know… It won’t change for the better, that’s for sure,” said Simard.

On Feb. 14, Manitoba Premier Wab Kinew and Environment Minister Tracy Schmidt announced the approval of the mine at a news conference in Selkirk, Man., 165 km south of Hollow Water.

Named the Wanipigow Sand Extraction Project, the mine is slated to go in an area roughly 200 kilometers north of Winnipeg and sits between the communities of Seymourville, Hollow Water, and Manigotagan on the eastern shore of Lake Winnipeg.

The news came after five years of consultations between CPS and the previous Manitoba government, and only a few months after Kinew was elected.

“After looking at the project carefully – we’re confident that with the support of local communities that this is a mining project that we can do right,” said Kinew at the news conference.

Hollow Water
‘I didn’t want to retire to having a mine right next door,’ says Reg Simard. Photo: Sav Jonsa/APTN.

In early April, APTN News went to visit the yet-to-be-constructed mine’s location and to talk with Camp Morningstar, the name given to a group committed to stopping the mine.

Simard sat with APTN in a tree-lined, snow-covered clearing for what used to be a logging road from a former natural resource project and is now the camp’s home base.

Simard moved to Manigotagan, a town nearby, for his retirement to be surrounded by the peace and tranquillity of the boreal forest.

“… but I didn’t want to retire to having a mine right next door,” said Simard.

He and fellow Camp Morningstar members MJ McCarron and Kateri Saabe Ikwe Phillips say they voted for Kinew to get into office in hopes that as a First Nations leader, he would at least consult with them and have their interests in protecting the land in mind.

They now regret that decision.

“We helped stick the knife in our own backs,” said Phillips, who is also a member of Hollow Water First Nation.

“That’s what is so disheartening about it,” Simard adds, “When that was announced, it just seemed so surreal like – they approved it?! It was almost like a death in the family.”

They believe the approval ignores the Environmental Review Process, or ERP.

The ERP Proponent’s Guide states that the worldviews of Indigenous people “… should be acknowledged and incorporated in every project development decision and throughout implementation and monitoring.”

“[Indigenous Services Canada] … encourages proponents to engage meaningfully with concerned indigenous communities, including different groups or subgroups of people within those communities.”

McCarron said they’ve been given no real chance to have their questions answered, and believes that infringes sec. 35 of the Constitution.

“Really what it comes back to is free, prior, and informed consent,” said McCarron, “If we had these conversations before anyone signed anything, we would all know where everybody is. By excluding people and not giving them the voice, this adversarial relationship happens.

“I had hoped that our government might bring something to the table with that, and that’s my biggest disappointment is to be kind of trampled upon so quickly after the election.”

In February 2024, Environment and Climate Change Minister Tracy Schmidt dismissed an appeal made by the Manitoba Eco-Network in opposition to the project which, in part, laid out concerns about sec. 35.

Schmidt stated that after an initial assessment, the project was concluded to “not have an impact on the exercise of Aboriginal or Treaty Rights and does not trigger sec. 35 consultation.”

APTN News reached out to Municipal and Northern Relations Minister Ian Bushie, who is also a member of Hollow Water, for comment on the mine and Camp Morningstar’s concerns but did not hear back.

What does CPS have to say?


Silica sand is sand with a high silicon dioxide content and is often used in glass making.

When the project was first proposed in 2019, the mined silica sand was to be sold to the oil and gas industry for fracking.

CPS changed lanes in 2022 because, according to its website, it “no longer makes business sense to sell the sand to the oil and gas industry.”

The silica sand is now intended to make solar glass panels in a manufacturing plant CPS has been approved to construct in Selkirk, Man.

Both the mine and manufacturing plant are linked and construction at both sites will begin once financing is in place, potentially as soon as this year.

When asked more about the project change in a 2022 interview with BNN Bloomberg, CPS CEO and president Glenn Leroux replied that making solar glass panels is a “far more responsible” use of the resource when compared to selling the sand as a raw material.

“That’s great for the country, that’s great for Manitoba, and quite frankly it’s even better for the CPS shareholders,” said Leroux.

Leroux was unavailable for an interview with APTN to discuss the approval and next steps of the project and to address on-going concerns.

Instead, he sent an emailed statement.

He said he’s aware of the concerns of “some community members” but he’s also heard from community leaders of the “very high unemployment, related social challenges and over dependence on levels of government funding to maintain their community infrastructure and programs.”

“The local leadership wants responsible economic development and employment opportunities in their communities as a platform to build a better future and our project can help provides (sic) that.”

According to CPS, there will be up to 17 jobs available for operating the plant and up to 20 jobs as truck drivers delivering the sand to Selkirk.

The mine is slated to operate for 35 years and, along with the manufacturing plant, are estimated to generate $200 million in provincial taxes over a 10-year period.

But Camp Morningstar doesn’t believe the surrounding communities will see these benefits.

They worry most of the estimated 37 jobs will go to people from out-of-province who are already trained for the positions, and that the amount of jobs is small compared to the roughly 1,000 people living there year-round, and an estimated few thousand more who live in nearby cottages during the summer.

Phillips said it’s environmental racism, a concept where Indigenous, Black and people of colour are disproportionately affected and exposed to potential health risks by the institutional policies allowing industrial facilities in their communities.

“This system was never put in place to benefit us. It was not our system, it still isn’t our system, but it definitely helps them get their foot in the door to our land and our resources,” said Phillips.

In response to the environmental aspects, Leroux said that “CPS was taken to task on our application with strong focus on the health, safety and environmental aspects of our operations.”

What does Hollow Water leadership say?

Hollow Water
The chief and council in Hollow Water are supportive of the project. Photo: Sav Jonsa/APTN.

The chief and council of Hollow Water First Nation have given their support. In 2018, Hollow Water First Nation received $250,000 from CPS to support the development of the project after the band council signed a memorandum of understanding with the proponent.

CPS has had at least one local community consultation which took place back in 2019 when the sand mine was still proposed to be used for fracking – around 130 people attended.

It was requested by the Manitoba Sustainable Development branch to address public concerns.

That year, CPS received more than 180 pages of public comments mostly in objection to the mine along with concerns from local cottagers, residents of the surrounding communities, and environmental groups.

Their concerns focused on noise levels, traffic and road conditions, water quality, and many worried about the environment as well as their own health.

One Pelican Inlet resident was concerned for the bald eagles, they say, nest where the mine will go.

“[It’s] “hard to imagine that any of those species will remain and nest in this wider area, once there is so much industrial noise and destruction of their habitat,” they said at a meeting according to the public registry. 

In 2022, CPS held a community information session unveiling the new project’s purpose of making solar glass panels.

Only 35 people attended, and eight provided feedback on their environmental concerns, which was shared in CPS’ notice of alteration report.

Despite the smaller scale of the new operation, the majority of people were still concerned with noise and air pollution, and then water quality, animals, and fish habitat.

Trucks carrying the sand will leave the facility an average of 50 times a day, five to seven days a week based on CPS estimates.

The mine will extract sand for 10 hours a day, seven days a week, for around six months each year it’s open.

After that community information session, Hollow Water First Nation Leadership reaffirmed their full support for the project.

In a letter to CPS, chief and council said, in part, that “We’re proud to support this long-term vision for our community, for Manitoba, and for Canada. We see a future where we all benefit.”

They said that everything from timber and gold has been extracted from their “traditional territory” without their participation or benefit, but “that has all changed” with CPS.

Camp Morningstar said students have been banned by the band council to visit Camp Morningstar for land-based education events because of their difference in opinion, they believe.

APTN reached out to Chief Larry Barker through email, phone, and in-person but was not able to reach him for an interview.

What’s next?

Hollow Water
Some people are concerned that the environment will be harmed for good. Photo: Sav Jonsa/APTN.

APTN went to see where the mine will go while visiting the communities.

Upon arrival, nature greeted us with a rare event.

Eighteen eagles were seen flying above and around the exact spot where the mine is slated to go.

An unusual sighting for the solitary animal.

McCarron said people are always surprised when they visit this land.

“When we look at things, trees, we look at it as a resource. The birch can give me paper, it can give me sap, it can give me things,” said McCarron, “But we don’t think about our relationship with the land.”

While the eagles still fly high in the sky, Camp Morningstar will be delivering a petition of over 6,000 signatures against the mine’s approval to Kinew, along with a list of recommendations to revise the environmental review process.

“Are we really going to support this neo-colonialism of industrial impact on traditional lands, when they just got the traditional lands back? You know, it needs to be a conversation,” said McCarron.

Contribute Button