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FEDERAL ENVIRONMENT AND CLIMATE CHANGE MINISTER RESPONDS TO UNCONVENTIONAL MINING EXTRACTION METHOD IN VIVIAN, MANITOBA
By Suzanne Forcese
In August, 2020, requests were made to the Federal Minister of the Environment and Climate Change to intervene and apply the Federal Impact Assessment Act (IAA) to a proposed CanWhite Sands (CWS) Project on the east side of Lake Winnipeg. Concerns raised by What The Frack Manitoba (WTFM) and First Nations communities include possible contamination of South Eastern Manitoba’s groundwater and a violation of Section 35.
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WATERTODAY spoke with WTFM Director Don Sullivan regarding a letter received from the Minister (November 16, 2020) on this matter.
“Although we did not receive a response on everything we requested, a couple of aspects are very encouraging in the Federal Minister’s letter,” Sullivan said. The letter states:
- “The Impact Assessment Agency of Canada requires that CanWhite Sands provide all information related to the Vivian Sand Extraction Project and its potential effects, including the results of any ongoing studies, to the Agency as it becomes available.”
- “The Agency will advise the Federal Minister of Environment and Climate Change should new information arise to suggest that the Project may lead to significant effects within federal jurisdiction.”
Sullivan adds that WTFM is also encouraged by the posts on the Federal Impact Assessment Agency of Canada’s website:
- “A complete assessment of the potential environmental impacts and proposed mitigation measures through the regulatory review processes under Manitoba’s The Environment Act, including an assessment of potential impacts to groundwater and surface water.”
The letter from the Minister does not however address the applicability of the Impact Assessment Act (IAA) on the extraction component of the CWS proposed development project.
The CWS proposal as presented to the Manitoba Government had split the processing facility and mining method in two.
This would mean that once the processing facility is approved the mining method would be a foregone conclusion which as Sullivan stated earlier “is the most egregious part of the project.”
“Although it would appear that the Minister and the Impact Agency of Canada raised few concerns about the processing facility, concerns were raised with respect to the extraction mining method.”
“However, it is evident from the IACC Report, that the IACC did not receive sufficient information to make a decision one way or the other to apply the Impact Assessment Act on the extraction component of the proposed project.” Sullivan bases this conclusion on a telephone conversation with the Northern Regional Director for the IACC on November 17, 2020.
In a November 9, 2020 letter (Manitoba Government Public Registry) to the Federal Impact Agency of Canada, Brent Bullen, Chief Operating Officer, CanWhite Sands Corporation affirms that it is conducting a hydrogeological study including but not limited to testing and monitoring of the carbonate and sandstone aquifers and associated aquitards.
“Once all stakeholders have had an opportunity to review the independent facts of the proposed operation, multiple public engagement sessions will be held to provide further clarification,” the letter from Bullen states.
In response to Bullen’s letter Sullivan says “WTFM strongly opposes any CWS public meeting process. It does not meet the formal requirement to have the company submit third party technical information and data on their mine and mining method and submit said information for a formal review under the Manitoba Environment Act, for review by both the public and government experts. The entirety of the CWS proposed development needs to be assessed as one project.”
“More importantly,” Sullivan continues, “Any proponent led public meeting process (as outlined in the CWS letter to the IACC on November 9) does not meet the legal standard of Section 35 Consultation Process that must be undertaken by the Crown when there may be an infringement on Aboriginal and Metis rights.”
Sullivan adds that it is encouraging that the letter from the Minister (November 16, 2020) to WTFM states:
“However,” Sullivan adds, “It should be noted that the Province of Manitoba has a draft set of Section 35 Consultation Guidelines that have not been formally approved. Therefore, it will be important for affected First Nations and Metis Peoples to work collaboratively, where possible, to determine the scope and parameters of what they both want in a meaningful and bona fide Section 35 Consultation process. This needs to happen before meeting with the Province to negotiate the terms and conditions of a Section 35 Consultation with respect to this proposed development project.”
- “Provincial Crown consultation will be carried out for this project in order to understand the potential impacts to Indigenous peoples and their rights as recognized and affirmed under Section 35 of the Constitution Act.
Sullivan expresses concern that the Government of Manitoba may be prepared to issue an Environment Licence under the Manitoba Environment Act to CWS for its processing facility first before Section 35 Consultation occurs. “I suspect that this approach could lead to legal challenges.”
What The Frack Manitoba is in the process of making a formal appeal, under the Manitoba Environment Act to the Minister of Conservation requesting that the Minister suspend the current Manitoba environmental review process and request that CWS submit a full Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) with their new hydrological study and a third party technical information and data on its unconventional mining method to be reviewed as a Class 3 Development Project as per the Manitoba Environment Act by a joint Federal/Provincial/Public Panel.
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