Mining in Prairie provincial parks

Mining is allowed in provincial parks in Saskatchewan and Manitoba. The Wilderness Committee has been documenting the impacts.

Hello Flatlanders,

Today, we are releasing parts two and three of our series about lithium mining on the Prairies.

And in case you missed it, Part 1 looks at how lithium mining has the potential to revitalize the small northern mining community of Snow Lake and how batteries for electric vehicles require lithium. (And for those wondering, part five will be about environmental concerns). 

One of the big revelations, for me anyway, from Robert’s work reporting this series, is that mining occurs in provincial parks. This is news to me. 

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In my naivety, I assumed all provincial parks were specifically designated to protect essential wilderness areas.

Black Lake in Nopiming Provincial Park, which is a two-hour drive northeast of Winnipeg. GETTY IMAGES.

I wanted to investigate this further, so I pulled up the publication A System Plan for Manitoba’s Provincial Parks over the weekend.

The opening paragraph reads:

Provincial parks play an important role in the lives of Manitobans. Parks contribute to the conservation of our natural lands and cultural heritage, offer excellent camping, cottaging and other outdoor recreational opportunities, contribute to Manitoba’s economic well-being through tourism and resource development, and strengthen Manitoba’s climate change resiliency and adaptability.”

Conservation and resource development are two land uses of provincial parks.

While I might have been in the dark on this, the Wilderness Committee, a national organization dedicated to protecting Canada’s wilderness, has closely followed resource development in provincial parks.

They have been calling for an end to mining in provincial parks and documenting the damage that the industry causes to wildlife habitats. They’ve taken photos of forests bulldozed into roads near Cat Lake inside Nopiming Provincial Park.

The group observed that one of these roads goes west off Highway 314 and across a new bridge over Cat Creek, into protected moose habitat. (Back in 2018, former conservation minister Rochelle Squires stated in the Legislature that mineral exploration wasn’t going into the moose closure area, but that seems to have changed).

Read The Flatlander’s past issue about Declining Prairie moose populations.

The Wilderness Committee made a short video documenting the destruction caused in Nopiming Provincial Park in 2021.

In 2018, there were 29 mining claims in the park, and Robert’s article looks at some of the current ones. 

According to the province’s system plan, parcels of land within the parks are placed into land use categories, like recreational development, heritage, and resource management.

Land placed in the resource management category allows commercial resource development or extraction in a manner that “does not compromise the main purpose of the park.”

Mining in the Nopiming Provincial Park goes back to the 1950s.

Bulldozed forest in Nopiming Provincial Park. PHOTO: WILDERNESS COMMITTEE

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Mining in Saskatchewan parks

There is some mining activity in Saskatchewan provincial parks, but there doesn’t seem to be as much of it going on as in Manitoba.

For instance, last year MAS Gold entered into an agreement with the Saskatchewan government to acquire land that includes the former producing Contact Lake gold mine, which is in Lac La Ronge Provincial Park. The Contact Lake gold mine was initially operated from 1994 to 1997 by Cameco.

There is also resource extraction going on at Moose Mountain Provincial Park and Meadow Lake Provincial Park, but no surface access is allowed.

Mining in Saskatchewan provincial parks

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Thanks for reading, and kind regards,

Kelly-Anne Riess

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