Last month, the Manitoba government proposed a new park. The Polar Bear Provincial Park is to be located just east of the town of Churchill along the Hudson Bay shoreline then wrapping around the west side of Wapusk National Park to the mouth of the Nelson River and east to the Ontario border and extending an average of 80 kilometres inland.
This new proposed park is shown on the Manitoba government mining disposition maps at 360 Ellice Ave. in Winnipeg. All mineral exploration and mine development will be stopped if the proposed park is granted provincial park status.
Yet mining exploration and development would have very little, if any, impact on polar bear populations. All mineral disposition acquisitions, including staked claims made after the proposed park appeared on the maps, will be pending.
Environment Canada estimates the total Canadian polar bear population to be 16,000 bears and the Manitoba government website estimates there are 935 polar bears in Manitoba, or 5.8 per cent of the bear population.
Federal Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq publicly stated polar bears are not endangered in Canada. The proposed park will cover 3.1 per cent of Manitoba, which brings to 24 per cent the proportion of Manitoba's land off limits to mining exploration and mining.
Mines are located where they are found, not where the government decides to put them. The future of mining in Manitoba has just become even more dim.
This new proposed park includes some of the most prospective ground in the entire world for new diamond mines. Geologists know this because the glaciers that once covered this part of Manitoba acted as bulldozers that plowed up bedrock containing high-quality diamond-indicator minerals, which left a trail in the glacial till to the south. These diamond-indicator minerals in the glacial till were very likely derived from a bedrock source containing diamonds.
The Manitoba Geological Survey and mining companies that have previously worked in the area have identified these diamond-indicator minerals.
One of the best diamond mines in the world, the Victor Mine in Ontario, was discovered by following trails of glacial indicator minerals just like Manitoba's indicator minerals, to the source.
The mining company that operates the Victor Mine pays taxes to the Ontario government, employs hundreds of people (a lot of whom are from the local aboriginal communities) and provides contracts to business. The economic spinoffs are tremendous.
The potential discovery of a diamond mine capable of providing employment and income to local aboriginal communities, of being a significant buyer of hydroelectricity from Manitoba Hydro, providing employment for skilled and unskilled Manitobans and work for contractors and suppliers of equipment, will be prevented by the creation of this provincial park.
Mining exploration for new mines away from nearby operating mines requires high-risk financial capital that is very difficult to acquire. The history of mine discovery is commonly made by building on information provided by previous company work used in conjunction with government databases.
If a discovery of potential diamond-bearing source rock is found, then the next stage of raising financial capital becomes much easier. If a significant diamond discovery is made, then a compressive study will be done to assess the economic viability of the project and the impact on the environment, wildlife, local communities and other affected things.
The Canadian Diamond mines Victor in Ontario, Ekati, Diavik and Snap Lake in the Northwest Territories are operated to have the least impact possible on the local wildlife and the environment.
A new diamond mine will need hundreds of new employees that would require a road and a hydroelectric line from Manitoba Hydro, both would face a daunting permitting process in a provincial park. The acquisition of all new mineral dispositions such as staked claims in the new proposed Polar Bear Provincial Park are now pending an opaque decision-making process and the possibility of having Manitoba's own diamond mine like Victor has just dimmed with this new layer of uncertainty.
William Ferreira, P. Geo. is a mining exploration geologist with 25 years of experience exploring for minerals in Manitoba. He is a director of SGX Resources, a publicly listed company in which San Gold Corporation holds an interest.