A local environmental group blasted the province Friday for considering a copper mine in Grass River Provincial Park.
But Conservation and Water Stewardship Minister Gord Mackintosh said the new mine, to be established on a mine-exploration site, is a recognition of the value of the mining industry in the province and will be subject to a strict environmental review before any approval.
Eric Reder, Manitoba campaign director with the Wilderness Committee, said the mine appears to be already on its way to being approved despite the objections of about 25,000 people to industrial development in provincial parks.
"A park is protected, but in Manitoba it's not," Reder said. "It's another assault on our parks."
Hudson Bay Mining & Smelting Co. Limited wants to establish a 1,300-tonnes-per-day underground copper mine at Reed Lake. The site is about 91 kilometres east-southeast of Flin Flon and approximately 80 kilometres west-southwest of the Town of Snow Lake in the Grass River Provincial Park. All ore extracted from the mine site will be trucked to the Flin Flon metallurgical complex for processing.
A 50-person camp will be built at the site along with one 18,927-litre holding tank for the storage of sewage and grey water. The holding tank will be pumped out and trucked to a licensed disposal facility when required.
The deadline for public input on the project is Feb. 19.
Reder said the site is near a sensitive woodland caribou migration route.
"The park was supposed to be looking after caribou, but the project looks like the project is already done," Reder said. "The site is cleared. The infrastructure is built. Caribou want 50-year-old forest. There's no way we can remediate this."
Mackintosh said only a handful of Manitoba's 86 parks allow mining, and to further restrict mining companies, and the jobs they create, is not in the cards.
"The Grass River park is situated on top of what I understand is one of the most prolific mining belts in Canada," he said. "If mining was banned in parks, the mining association estimates there would be $26 billion in lost opportunities."
Mackintosh said a ban would also require the province to pay out millions of dollars in compensation to mining companies and eliminate a source of economic development in the north.
He also said the environmental review of the project, prior to Hudson Bay Mining & Smelting getting a licence under the Environment Act, will examine the mine's potential impact on the area.