Will lithium mining create an economic boom for the Prairies?

Lithium is needed to make batteries for electric vehicles, and we have the element in abundance in the Prairies.

I am excited to launch a five-part series on lithium mining in Manitoba and Saskatchewan.

Lithium is needed to make batteries for electric vehicles, and we have the element in abundance in the Prairies.

I commissioned Winnipeg freelance writer Robert Swystun to investigate.

  • Will lithium bring about the next big industry boom on the prairies?
  • What are the challenges? Which communities will benefit?
  • Which companies are buying in?
  • How will this mining impact local First Nations communities?
  • What about the environment?

Robert confirmed some surprising revelations and uncovered some ideas worth pondering.

To begin the series, Robert looks at the community of Snow Lake, in Northern Manitoba, which stands to benefit if lithium mining moves ahead in their town.

Part 1 also looks at what lithium is, the global demand, and where Canada stands with other countries in meeting that demand.

In the next issue of The Flatlander, we will look at the lithium mining potential in Saskatchewan and Manitoba and what companies are hoping to make the most of this opportunity with the support of both the provincial and federal governments. 

An aerial photo of the community of Snow Lake Manitoba on the shore of Snow Lake where a lithium mining project is proposed.
Snow Lake, Manitoba

Part 1: Lithium on the prairies – the latest boom for Snow Lake?

The small mining town of Snow Lake in northern Manitoba, about 200 km east of Flin Flon, has had its share of booms and busts. Lithium is the newest resource promising to put the town back on the proverbial map.

As the world transitions to electric vehicles (EVs), the demand for lithium, a key component in EVs’ lithium-ion batteries, will increase sixfold to 500 kilotons by 2030, according to the International Energy Agency, in its “Global Supply Chains of EV Batteries” report.

About 50 new mines are required to meet this demand, and one could be in Snow Lake, operated by Snow Lake Resources Ltd., also known as Snow Lake Lithium.

The possibility of a lithium mine is welcome news to Snow Lake mayor Peter Roberts.

“We’re cautiously optimistic that this will get off the ground,” Roberts told The Flatlander.

Over the past several years, mining companies had promised to set up shop near the town, only never to appear. 

To read more of Robert’s article on lithium mining, click here.

The history of Snow Lake, Manitoba

Over the last five years, until June, I was living north on the Saskatchewan/Alberta border, near Pierceland, which is very out of the way for most people, about two hours north of Lloydminster. Snow Lake is even more out of the way in the boreal forest.

I always wonder who the first visitors were to these out-of-reach places and how they got there before there were roads, so it got me to look into the history of Snow Lake, 150 km northeast of The Pas.

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Snow Lake was destined to become a community when Christopher Parres discovered gold in the area in 1925. He would go on to stake a gold claim on the east side of Snow Lake in 1927. 

Nor-Acme Mines was incorporated in 1938 to run operations on the land, and in 1941 Howe Sound Exploration Co. Ltd. bought the property from them.

In 1947, Hudson Bay opened its first store, and Howe Sound built a dormitory and dining hall, 43 residences, a staff house, an eight-bed hospital, a four-room schoolhouse, a curling rink, and the community hall.

On June 2 of that year, the local government district of Snow Lake was formed. 

“They came north, single or in groups, enduring the bitter cold of winter and the insect-infected muskegs in summer. Without union backing, Medicare or pension plans they spread out across the land, cutting roads as they came. They cleared the portages and marked them with the familiar lobstick, a partially limbed tree trunk with its two remaining branches pointing the way across the lake to the next portage,” Alma Mardis wrote in Snow Lake’s Centennial Salute to the Trailblazers, published in 1967.

“Some of them came from far countries, often to die a lonely death in some northern lake. They came to search for wealth in the rocks; to fish or to trap and trade in fur. Perhaps, most of all, they came because, as George Bartlett has said ‘it’s nice to be free,’” she wrote.

Click here to read more Snow Lake history.

Until next week…

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Thanks for reading, and kind regards,

Kelly-Anne Riess

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