Drilling a rich future for Manitoba

One of the province’s oldest industries is set to continue mining new jobs and business for Manitobans well into the next decade, according to those involved in its evolution.

Mining in Manitoba has been a growing trade industry since the early 1800s, starting with mining salt, and growing to mine base and precious metals.

According to the Manitoba Geological Survey, a section of the provincial Mineral Resources Division, Manitoba is and will continue to be a major contributor to Canada’s mining industry.

Six per cent of Manitoba’s surface area has the potential for producing base or precious metal which helps Manitoba produce 28.3 per cent of Canada’s nickel, 11.4 per cent of Canada’s zinc and 100 per cent of Canada’s lithium.

According to Ed Huebert, executive vice president of The Mining Association of Manitoba, the province is one of the world leaders when it comes to advancements in mining, particularly environmentally.

“The industry has been understanding that climate change is real since 1991 or 1992,” he said.

A major environmental and economical advancement pioneered in Manitoba is the Flin Flon hydrometallurgical zinc refinery, which is run by Hudbay Minerals Inc., a Toronto based mining company with mines across Canada and in Guatemala.

According to Huebert, the Flin Flon refinery has used a method of two-stage pressure leaching since 1993 that substantially reduces CO2 omissions and practices sustainable energy, making Flin Flon the greenest zinc producer in the world.

As for the future of hot commodities in Manitoba, Huebert suggests that lithium will be the next big thing.

“In Manitoba some firms are looking at more deposits that have potential to produce lithium,” he said.

Chris Beaumont-Smith, acting manager of minerals policy and business development with Manitoba Geological Survey, sees one of the main issues that the mining industry in general will continue to face is environmental energy.

“This is an energy intensive industry,” he said “Energy is going to become much more of an issue.”

On the plus side, he notes that Manitoba is lucky to have a growing hydroelectricity industry to power the mines while reducing Manitoba’s carbon footprint as much as possible.

Beaumont-Smith only sees the industry growing in the coming years and encourages students who are interested to look into a geology or earth sciences degree.

“I can’t stress enough how much opportunity there is in earth science,” he said. “There will be the need for 100,000 jobs in this sector over the next 10 years. This is a huge opportunity for (graduating) students.”

With more mining communities being created and road links being made to the larger hubs of Winnipeg and Thompson, the Manitoba trucking industry is also set to grow.

“New communities, if and when developed ... will improve our economy,” said Bob Dolyniuk, executive director of the Manitoba Trucking Association. “Logical distribution points (to these communities) could be Winnipeg and or Thompson, definitely creating business for Manitoba.”

Published in Volume 65, Number 4 of The Uniter (September 23, 2010)

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