There was no shortage of questions last night as hundreds of people attended a meeting regarding a proposed silica mine south of La Ronge.
The event took place at the Jonas Roberts Memorial Community Centre and included a short presentation by Garcia Silica Incorporated staff, before attendees were given the chance to ask CEO Camilo Garcia some questions. People had concerns about many aspects of the project, and one of the first questions came from a woman who lives near the site and wanted to know if her family would be safe.
"I don't want to lose my home," she told Garcia. "I don't want the river behind my house to be polluted."
He responded by telling her the reason his mineral claim was so extensive because he doesn't want another company setting up a similar operation nearby and competing with them. Garcia said the water used to extract the silica will be reused "again and again" in a continuous cycle. He also suggested her lot would be a good place to open a store.
"I'm saying in front of everyone here, you will not lose your home. We will not pollute the river," Garcia said.
Another person wanted to how much land beyond the initial 120 acres will be used. He asked how they planned on getting billions of tons of sand from such a small place.
Garcia sais he didn't know exactly how much land would be used, but said land where the silica is removed will be reforested as they expand.
"Once we exhaust, we'll move a little bit to the South and reforest the area as we move," he responded. "We will use the area going toward the South and a little bit toward the East. There's no people living there for miles."
Another question came from a man wanting to know more about the health effects of silica extraction. He said silica has been known to be cancer-causing, and he was concerned people could become sick or the fine silica particles could affect wildlife. The man also said seasonal mushroom pickers in the area would never be able to pick there again, because mushrooms won't grow back after the land is reforested.
"We are offering jobs year around," Garcia replied. "Silica sand is a natural occurring material everywhere on the planet. The harmful silica is the microscopic one. For example, when sandblasting."
Also at the meeting, Wapawekka Trappers chairperson Henry McKenzie said Garcia already discussed the idea with area trappers. McKenzie said the group approved the project in-principal, but wanted more information.
"The trappers liked what they heard, but we wanted to see more," he told the crowd. "[Garcia] can take this project anywhere else. This silica is all over the world. We have a chance to see what they can do for us that's clean."
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