Former Manitoba cabinet minister denies accusations of rushing silica mining project

A former Manitoba cabinet minister is denying accusations that he tried to rush the approval of a proposed mining project.

The Sio Silica sand mine project remains a proposal with no licence. The Alberta-based company has had plans to extra silica sand in Manitoba, with an extraction project that would be set up in the RM of Springfield. It was voted down by the municipal council twice, before landing in the hands of the Environmental Approvals Branch in June last year.

At the time, then-minister of environment and climate change Kevin Klein said a decision to award the licence would not be made until a further study of the project’s impacts was made.

With the fall election now over, accusations by former Tory ministers who lost the election allege that cabinet minister Jeff Wharton tried to rush the approval of the project. It’s an accusation he has since denied.

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Klein and fellow former minister Rochelle Squires said that Wharton asked them, in separate conversations on Oct. 12, 2023, to get the project approved before the current NDP government was sworn in. Both ministers said they refused, citing reasons including not wanting to go against the caretaker convention — a long-standing constitutional practice that forbids outgoing governments from making most major decisions.

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Wharton said he had only attempted to gather information about the planned mining project following last year’s election in order to pass it on to the current government. He denied the allegations on Wednesday.

“That’s what good governments do. They share information to ensure that we’re making informed decisions,” said Wharton. “And in this case, going forward, we’re ensuring this particular project was in a position for the new government to make an informed decision.”

— With files from Global News.

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Manitobans, mining company debate proposed silica project at public hearings

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