Potential silica mine brings positives and negatives to consider

By Derek Cornet
January 11, 2019 - 5:00pm

A proposed mine near La Ronge by Garcia Silica Inc. is a major opportunity for northern Saskatchewan, but there are positive and negative aspects residents should consider.

Those are the words of Lac La Ronge Indian Band member Teco Bird, whose family has been residing on a piece of land less than two kilometers away from the potential site for more than 40 years. His family’s history at the site began when his grandparents, the late Hector and Virginia Bird, were searching for a spot to lay down their roots.

“My grandmother is originally from Molanosa and grandfather was from La Ronge,” Bird told larongeNOW. “She didn’t want to move into town because she hated the town life. She was used to growing up in the bush. So, that was their compensation to meet halfway.”

Bird also shared memories of growing up on the land and how we and other relatives would catch the bus to school at the junction. But, with the mine’s plan calling for 300 semi trucks, he believes the way of life in the area will become completely different. Bird is concerned not only about the amount of dust, noise and garbage the mine will bring, but also the amount of damage the traffic will do to Highway 2 and other nearby roads. The area is also a prime spot for miushroom pickers and people who enjoy camping during the summer. 

At a public meeting hosted by Garcia Silica last night in La Ronge, company owner Camilo Garcia Benitez told Bird he would hold a private meeting with his family to discuss compensation. Benitez stated he was willing to pay for any loss of income, as well as offered to plant trees to reduce noise and provide cabin renovations. Bird noted he later told Benitez it was still premature to have that discussion since the company still has permits and other crucial steps to complete.

“The main thing was I see both positive and negatives,” he said. “I thought that’s the feeling everybody got at that meeting. They want the jobs, but there’s still the whole environmental impact study needed to be completed.”

There were several promises Benitez made at the meeting such as giving locals priority on jobs, paying the tuition of those hired with a 1A driving license and investing mine income in new projects or upgrades in the tri-communities. Benitez also noted La Ronge was a suitable place for the silica mine because of the amount of currently unemployed uranium workers in the area with the skills to do the work.

Benitez, however, did make it clear at the meeting he has other plans if residents aren’t interested in his project. He said opening a similar silica mine could also be feasible in a neighbouring province.

“If the local people don’t want us, thank you, I appreciate your time and we will go to Manitoba,” Benitez told attendees. “In Manitoba, we’re close to the rail, we’re close to the main powerline, we’re close to the city, we’re close to everything.”

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Twitter: @saskjourno 

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