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This article was published 11/2/2019 (194 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Commercial truck traffic from a proposed frac-sand mine in eastern Manitoba won’t be any greater than when the Pine Falls paper mill and Bissett gold mine operated, the company says.
Canadian Premium Sand, which wants to build a $110-million sand-extraction and cleaning plant near Hollow Water First Nation, refuted traffic numbers publicized by environmentalist Don Sullivan.
Sullivan says the company would start at 120 trucks daily and could reach 240 trucks within a few years.
Bronwyn Weaver, spokeswoman for Canadian Premium Sand, said the company has applied to run three or four truckloads per hour, or 72 to 96 per day, from its plant.
"Our truck contribution is really at no net gain compared to the industry that has been lost in the area," said Weaver, referring to closures in Pine Falls and Bissett.
The former Tembec paper mill at Pine Falls ran about 90 logging trucks per day, according to the local trucking industry, although there were fewer in summer. A figure for truck traffic from Bissett could not be obtained.
Sullivan’s figures appeared in a recent opinion column in the Free Press that was directed mainly at cottagers. He maintained traffic to and from Lake Winnipeg on Highway 59 is going to be ramped up dramatically due to the sand trucks and result in more highway collisions. He claimed Canadian Premium Sand plans to double the number of truckloads by its third year.
Any company wants to grow, Weaver responded, but an increase would require the blessing of Manitoba Infrastructure "to make sure we are considering road improvements to be able to handle more trucks."
An independent traffic study was conducted as part of the company’s Dec. 18 submission for an environmental licence. Weaver said the traffic study determined the mine’s truck operation would have "minimal impact" on traffic density.
Weaver believes Sullivan got his figures from a company proposal made in 2014 that is no longer in use. The company has rewritten its proposal and brought in officials more familiar with silica sand operations, she said.
Currently, about 200 trucks per day haul sand or gravel from quarries in Manitoba, according to Manitoba Infrastructure. One of the most active regions for hauling gravel is just north of Winnipeg off Highway 59 on Garven Road. About 2.5 million tonnes of sand and gravel are moved from the Garven quarries, more than double the one million tonnes Canadian Premium Sand plans to move.
By an arrangement with the province, trucks hauling silica sand from Hollow Water, about 200 kilometres northeast of Winnipeg, would bypass Highway 11, which winds through Lake Winnipeg cottage country, said Weaver.
Instead, CPS trucks will travel south down Highway 304 and turn onto Highway 59 at Beaconia. From there, the trucks will travel south an estimated 14 kilometres of two-lane highway before the highway becomes four lanes.
Weaver said the 24/7 truck traffic, including weekends, is necessary for the plant to be economically viable.
The sand will be hauled in enclosed trailers that look almost like milk trucks, Weaver said. The trucks will haul the sand to Winnipeg to be loaded onto rail cars and then transported to oil fields in Western Canada, including the oilpatch in southwestern Manitoba, near Virden.
Currently, the fracking sand is transported from Wisconsin. The Hollow Water quarry will cut the cost to move fracking sand to the oil fields in half, Weaver said.
During the fracking process, the sand is mixed with a fluid, sent down a well-hole, and then blasted so it creates cracks in the shale. The little round grains of sand — its rounded grains are what make silica sand in demand — hold open the fissures, allowing oil to seep into the well-hole and be extracted.
The frac sand quarry will help replace some of the jobs lost from industries in eastern Manitoba in recent years. The CPS quarry, which will be on the traditional land of Hollow Water First Nation, will employ 100 people and require an additional 50 independent truckers.
CPS will also bring high-speed internet services to the area and will bring back emergency response services that had been in Bissett. "We’re going to have emergency services up and running before we start because we need it and then it will be available for all of the community," Weaver said.
The company has estimated there is enough sand in the deposit to sustain mining for 50 years. While the first sand extracted will be mainly for fracking, the company plans to diversify into sales for making glass, including the covers of smartphones, and silicon metal, Weaver said. It is also used in water-filtration systems.
The facility will be enclosed so as to reduce silica dust but also allow it to operate year-round and provide stable employment for the area. It is only cleaning the sand on site and not pulverizing it, from which the harmful dust can spread. It will have its own water source for cleaning the silica sand that will circulate in a close-looped system.
Dave Crabb, past president of the Manitoba Association of Cottage Owners, said the extra traffic affects both seasonal cottagers and year-round residents. "It changes the behaviour of the highway," he said.
The highways along the truck traffic route will need a lot of work and he hopes the extra traffic will spur the province to make repairs, he said.
He added it might be time the province extended Hwy 59’s four-lane highway from Scanterbury to Grand Beach, which has been on the drawing board for at least a decade.
"Maybe the extra traffic is what it takes to get the extra roadwork done," Crabb said.
Bill Redekop has been covering rural issues since 2001.
Updated on Monday, February 11, 2019 at 8:37 AM CST: Corrects spelling of Garven Road