The President and Chief Executive Officer for Sio Silica says gaining the necessary approvals for their proposed extraction project in southeastern Manitoba would pump more than one billion dollars into the Manitoba economy over the lifetime of the project.

Feisal Somji is in Steinbach for the Clean Environment Commission hearings currently taking place at Mennonite Heritage Village. He says Sio Silica, formerly CanWhite Sands, is a Canadian company headquartered in Calgary with a Manitoba-based team. Somji says the Vivian Sand Extraction Project, east of Anola, would supply high-purity silica sand to the green energy and technology markets where it is in high demand to contribute to Net Zero 2050 goals. 

According to Somji, silica is the primary invisible ingredient that keeps our society running and is used in battery anodes, low iron glass, solar panels, silicon metals, solar cells, cosmetics, semiconductors, medical, food and agriculture, tires, touch screens, medical glass, alloys (car parts and planes), ceramics and fiber optics. 

He says they are targeting to remove 1.36 million tonnes per year, which works out to 1.06 per cent over the 24-year life of the mine. 

Somji notes the Vivian project is expected to contribute $1.2 billion into Manitoba through taxes, payroll, royalties and municipal charges over a 24-year mine life. The estimated direct revenue to the Rural Municipality of Springfield is $2 to $3 million per year. The indirect revenue is estimated at $2 to $4 million per year. 

Somji also says the Vivian project is expected to spend $1.4 billion in Manitoba in capital and operating expenses over a 24-year mine life. He says $55 million is expected to be spent locally each year on supply and services. As a result, Somji says all other businesses in Manitoba can benefit as this project will lead to hundreds of indirect jobs and business opportunities. 

If this project is approved, Somji says the facility and operations will directly employ approximately 75 to 100 full-time people. In addition, there will be 100 to 200 indirect employment opportunities related to transportation, supplies and services. 

Meanwhile, Krista Boryskavich is legal counsel for the Municipal Silica Sand Advisory Committee (MSSAC). This committee is made up of eight municipalities within the project area, including the City of Steinbach and Rural Municipalities of Hanover, La Broquerie, Ste. Anne, Tache, Brokenhead, Reynolds and St. Clements. 

Boryskavich says MSSAC came together with a mandate to conduct an independent review and obtain information with respect to the impact of the proposed project in areas of municipal concern. She told the Clean Environment Commission that the municipal concern is towards municipal infrastructure, land uses, water quality, aquifers and municipal services. 

"While participating municipalities have identified multiple issues of municipal concern, including items such as potential increased traffic, dust control arising from the proposed project amongst others, the primary issue of concern and the one that we're going to focus on primarily at this hearing is the project's potential impacts on the aquifer and the municipal water supply," notes Boryskavich.

She notes independent experts have identified shortcomings with the information presented by Sio Silica and says there is a lack of analysis with respect to the long-term cumulative impact of the project. Boryskavich says it is critical from the municipalities' perspective that the impacts of this project are examined not just within the first four or five-year period, but over the lifetime of the project to ensure that all risks are considered, and plans are put in place and monitored to address those risks. 

"I suggest to you that the ratepayers of these participant municipalities deserve that consideration," she adds. 

Boryskavich says the MSSAC believes the proponent has not met its obligation to demonstrate that the project has minimal environmental or health safety risks or that such risks are adequately addressed through long-term monitoring and response plans.

"The participant municipalities submit that until such shortcomings are addressed, it will be premature to recommend approval of a license at this time," she adds.

The Clean Environment Commission hearings take place at Mennonite Heritage Village in Steinbach until March 9th, before moving to Anola and then Beausejour.