Attendees at a public meeting Jan. 10 hosted by Garcia Silica Inc. in La Ronge were given a view of what the potential mining operation south of town could look like.
“This is a pilot project and we’re asking for permission to do it,” company owner Camilo Garcia Benitez told the crowd of about 70 people who gathered at La Ronge Hotel and Suites. “We already got the leases to harvest the sand and the clay. We have secured the financing to do it. We went to Asia, Europe, Canada and North America securing the equipment to do the project.”
Garcia Silica acquired mineral claims in the La Ronge area back in 2013, but was only issued three five-year quarry dispositions in August 2017. Those dispositions give the company the right to search, dig, work, quarry, process or carry away granular silica and clay, but doesn’t provide approval to start any exploration activities. Benitez wants to build the mine site near the intersection of Highways 165 and 969, which is about one kilometer away from the junction with Highway 2.
Attendees were also shown a video of a MicroGrader in India producing foundry sand as an example of how the silica mine near La Ronge would operate. The process involves a loader hauling sand and dumping it on a conveyer belt, before the sand reaches another feeder which pushes the more coarse sand onto another conveyer belt and off to the side. Finer sand then drops into a hydro-cycle, which filters the sand even more, cleaning it. Some sand used for glass is then deposited into a pile close to the MicroGrader, while the purified silica sand follows along a final conveyer belt to be stored and collected at the end.
“The same water is going to be used many times,” Benitez explained, adding the water will likely be trucked in from La Ronge. “It’s not going to be wasting the water by dumping. We’ll buy the water here in town.”
According to information provided by Garcia Silica Director Katherine White, it will take 16 to 18 months to complete the ground work, construction of the production plant and the required buildings. She stated the pilot project would only last five or six years, but will be longer if both the company and local residents approve of what’s been done at that point. At its peak, White said the silica operation would need 300 trucks working 24 hours per day to move the sand to the railyard near Prince Albert with more employees needed on site.
Although White said the company has leases to extract 300,000,000 metric tons of sand, the pilot project will only harvest 5,000,000 metric tons. The first phase would also include the removal of overburden material such as top soil, peat, gravel and other non-silica materials. The excavation site would be 14 meters deep.
“The entire Phase 1 construction will be built simultaneously with both local contractors with the capability to handle as much as they can and Mr. Benitez’s construction crew,” White said.
In an email to larongeNOW from the Ministry of Environment, a spokesperson said the tree quarry dispositions issued to Garcia Silica account for 1,460 acres, but only one disposition of 172.7 acres has been submitted for a determination whether the project would be considered at development under the Environmental Assessment Act and be subjected to an environmental assessment.
The email also cleared Garcia Silica of any wrongdoings after wood-clearing activities captured on video were submitted to the ministry in February 2018 by a concerned citizen and an investigation was launched. It was determined the company’s activities were in compliance with applicable permits and regulations.
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