A working mine pours royalties into the provincial government and supports
many other industries….A national park on top of rich ore deposits
potentially worth billions will remove a major economic development
opportunity for both indigenous communities and Manitoba.
Joseph Quesnel is a research associate with the Frontier Centre for Public Policy. www.fcpp.org
Why is the federal government planning to create a national park on top of potentially lucrative nickel ore deposits in Northern Manitoba? That’s a question that local indigenous communities that stand to benefit are asking.
The Manitoba Lowlands near Grand Rapids between Lake Winnipeg and Lake Winnipegosis are designated to become a national park, according to the recent federal budget. This area includes breathtaking limestone cliffs, an aquamarine lake, very productive wetlands and a region unique in the province where four species — deer, bison, elk and moose — share the habitat.
The region has some things that need protecting. However, it is not clear why Manitoba needs a new 4,400-square-kilometre national park that will cut off economic development for the local indigenous communities. Indigenous leaders from the area are wary of a conventional public park that could become a tourist magnet and damage the area’s sensitive ecology. But the main problem is that the proposed park includes the southern extension of the Thompson nickel belt.
Mining representatives say the park includes feeder ore deposits that could keep mining going in the Thompson region for years to come. Recently, the mining giant Vale said it will be closing one of its mines in the area next fall, putting at least 150 people out of work. Vale says the mine is closing because it is running out of ore.
The presence of ore in the southern extension may present a lifeline for many companies and the region. This must be considered before a park is created. The federal government must work with the provinces and the indigenous communities in balancing environmental and economic interests. Manitoba already has considerable protected lands at the provincial level.
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