Mining in Manitoba – Is it Really a Big Deal?

Mining in Manitoba, is it really a big deal?

Mining is one of our province’s best kept secrets. Not because people aren’t aware that it exists, but because most know so little about the modern mines operating today.

“We’ve been blessed with these world-renowned deposits like the Thompson nickel belt along with lithium, copper, and gold. And I think we’re just getting started,” says Stacy Kennedy, President of the Mining Association of Manitoba Inc. (MAMI) and Director of Manitoba Operations for Vale in Thompson, Manitoba. “Mining has been underestimated for a very long time because people don’t know how clean, technologically advanced, environmentally responsible, highly regulated, and safe today’s mines are. 

She points to how mines in Thompson, Flin Flon, Snow Lake, Wabowden, Lynn Lake and Leaf Rapids in the north, and Bissett and Lac du Bonnet in the south are deeply connected to the social fabric, infrastructure, and financial well-being of the communities in which they operate.

Mineral production value in Manitoba is currently $862 million annually. The industry’s average most recent number of employees was 2,400 across the province, with average salaries of $100,000 annually according to Stats Canada.

Mining currently contributes over $1 billion annually to the Manitoba economy, and the province is poised to be a leader with known occurrences of 29 of the 31 critical minerals that Canada has identified as essential to global economic security and stability. 

Mineral exploration discovers resources which can also contribute to economic reconciliation in Indigenous communities through Indigenous engagement and partnerships, ongoing community revenues, and high-quality jobs and career opportunities. 

This is kind of a big deal.

Communities built on mining

Kennedy points to where she works in Thompson as one of the biggest examples of how mining is making a difference in communities across Manitoba. “That community was built and exists today because of mining.” She adds the benefits in communities like Thompson aren’t just because of the profits from the mines but everything else that then goes into the economy. “It’s the jobs that are created, it’s thousands of people who are earning their livelihood, and the businesses those people and the mines support. It’s a huge part of our province and one that we should take very seriously. An influx of people buying and building homes impacts your hardware store, it impacts the city’s tax base, and it creates a very positive domino effect for all.”

Everyday products and science we can count on

Many people will be proud to know that Canada has some of the most stringent environmental standards to ensure these natural resources are sourced responsibly and in consultation with First Nations communities. 

“It’s incredibly important for the future of Canada to make sure that we’re utilizing the resources that we have in the best way possible to the maximum benefit of all parties involved,” says Scott Anderson, Vice-President, Exploration for 1911 Gold Corporation. 

He believes that for the general public to really understand mining, they have to see what mining means to their everyday lives. 

“These are many of the things we take for granted that we deal with every day, like driving in a car or talking on the phone or watching TV; all of that comes about through both the mining and exploration industries. Without those industries, many of the things we rely on in our daily lives would simply not exist.”

He adds that people also don’t generally know about all the science, expertise and technology that is required to decide where to explore and what areas have potential for different commodities, be it lithium, nickel, gold or copper.

“New exploration technologies are continuously being introduced, new ways to look at the geology of areas, be it from satellite systems or from airplanes and helicopters and drones. [Unmanned Arial Vehicle] UAV systems are very important in the industry now for surveying the ground; often it’s the initial pass of exploration where you use those types of techniques to identify areas where you really want to focus your work. And once you get boots on the ground, those techniques really give us a step up in terms of deciding which areas have the best potential.”

Stretching from north to south

Historically, the most important mineral deposits in Manitoba have been up north, including nickel deposits in the Thompson and Lynn Lake areas and in the Flin Flon, Snow Lake, Lynn Lake, and Leaf Rapids areas where major deposits of copper, zinc and gold have been discovered and mined. “Those are the major mining camps in Manitoba, but you also have gold in the Bissett and Lynn Lake areas and deposits of lithium and cesium near Lac du Bonnet, including the world-renowned Tanco deposit,” Anderson says. 

He adds, “While these are the main commodities that have been produced historically in terms of mineral deposits, there’s now an increased focus on the lithium aspect of Manitoba’s mineral potential with battery metals and the transition to a greener economy.”

“Manitoba has a very diverse geology, and with that comes this very diverse suite of elements that are potentially of economic interest and certainly critical for both exploration and mining, and the environment in general.”

Big career opportunities

And what about a career in mining? Is that a big deal too? Anderson, who has been a geologist for over 30 years, thinks it is. “There’s a number of different career paths you can take in terms of working in industry and exploration or mining or in academia or working for provincial or territorial geological surveys and so forth. Once you get into the exploration industry and into mining, then you have engineers, you have chemists, you have biologists doing environmental studies, geologists, and in the mining process you have trades people including welders, mechanics, and miners. It just goes on and on. And these are tremendously rewarding and high paying careers for the most part in the mining industry.” He has never regretted his career choice. 

Mining produces more than minerals

Laura Winter, a senior project geologist with Orix Geoscience Inc., agrees on the need for more public education on the benefits mining brings to our everyday lives as well as its enormous investment potential. “People want clean energy or green technology. Well, what’s going to drive that? We live in a province with just over a million people and about 900,000 living in the south in the Winnipeg area. So we have this whole northern area that is missing infrastructure from roads, to electricity, to the use of Internet and cell phones. All of that can be developed and helped with mining for the greater good of the whole province.” She sees the world-class metal deposits in the north as the best way forward. 

“We have a lot of ground that hasn’t even been looked at in the critical mineral space.”

All in all, it appears our vast quantity of critical mineral resources are essential to building a thriving economy for Manitoba in the future with spin offs in other sectors including manufacturing, technology, even construction and possibly renewable energy sources.

Drawing on the past for a big future

For some, like Tafa Kennedy, Director of Manitoba Geological Survey, the future of Manitoba’s mining industry is even more exciting because it comes from a rich geological past. 

“Manitoba’s rich geological history spans from the complex volcanic island landscape of the Precambrian approximately between 2.8 and 1.6 billion years ago to the warm tropical seas of the Phanerozoic rich with marine life, salt flats and large reefs between 450 to 66 million years ago. This was then capped off during the Quaternary with multiple glacial ice advances over the last 1.8 million years, ending eight thousand years ago. The Precambrian rocks gave rise to our many metal mines, the Phanerozoic rocks to our oil, gas and potash deposits, and the Quaternary to our sand and gravel deposits. The landscape we see in Manitoba today is the compounded accumulation of these environments recorded in the rocks, that have been carved into the plains, valleys and rolling hills that make Manitoba beautiful,” Kennedy says.

It is a wonderful opportunity to be in Manitoba at a time when there’s potential for the province to be at the centre of great technological advances, she says. “Climate and environmental changes are pushing advancements in green technology. Manitoba is well situated to play an important role — I am very excited about the future.

The past is only a reflection of what we could do, and I think the avenues that are there for us for the future are absolutely limitless.” 

Now that’s a big deal. 

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