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Grand Rapids is located at the mouth of the Saskatchewan River on the west side of Lake Winnipeg. It consists of two communities, the town of Grand Rapids on the north side of the river, and Misipawistik Cree Nation on the south side. In pre-European days, Grand Rapids was the location of an important sturgeon fishery, where the Cree congregated each year to take advantage of this rich resource. With the coming of the Europeans, it became an important fur trade route used first by the French traders from Montreal and later by the English traders out of York Factory. Indeed, it was an important route to the western interior of British North America until the railway was built in the 1880s. Later it became an important centre for the Lake Winnipeg fishery, but that function ended when the provincial government established the Freshwater Fish Marketing Corporation in 1969. It was in the 1960s, too, that muskrat trapping was almost wiped out when the newly constructed Grand Rapids Dam flooded the marshland on which that trapping industry depended.
Since the 1960s, the community of Grand Rapids and Misipawistik Cree Nation have struggled to establish a stronger economy to ensure the social and physical wellbeing of their people. News summaries designed to reflect that interest are organised by topic as shown below. They are also included in this educational site to better inform the school and its students about local news, so that they can add their voices to discussion about the region’s current issues and future development.
There could be a new nickel mine in Manitoba before long that would provide employment opportunities for the neighbouring communities of Wabowden, Cross Lake, Grand Rapids, Moose Lake, and Norway House. On 20 November 2009, Victory Nickel Inc. made a presentation at the Manitoba Mining and Minerals convention in Winnipeg to highlight a proposed new mining development at Minago, which is about halfway between Grand Rapids and Ponton near Highway 6. Victory had spent “close to $30 million developing the property over the last 10 years, and was awaiting the third-party feasibility study that “could set the table for another $450-million mining project in Northern Manitoba.” According to Rene Galipeau, Victory’s vice-chairman and CEO, “This could be a mega-project.” Indeed it could be as large as the Lalor mine, which is forecast to cost $450 million to develop. It would be an open-pit mine and require 400 people to operate it. Chris Beaumont-Smith, a senior minerals policy and business development official with the province’s Department of Innovation, Energy and Mines, said, “It could be spectacular. There is much to do before that could happen, as Victory Nickel is a junior exploration company based in Toronto with only about $5 million in the bank and no revenues to speak of.” However, if the feasibility study proved positive, it could enable the company to get financial backing from the banks. It got a boost in August 2009, when “Jilin Jien Nickel Industry Co. Ltd., China’s second-largest nickel, bought close to 20 per cent” of its shares.
The project certainly looks promising. The deposit is close to Highway 6 and to the Hudson Bay Railway (HBR), which is only about 60 kilometres away. Hydro power is also nearby. Talks have also been held with OMNItrax, which owns the HBR, about a potential business partnership. The company has also signed memorandums of understanding with three of the First Nations in the area – Grand Rapids, Cross Lake and Moose Lake – and believes it has their support.
Norway House had not come on board at time of writing, but Dave Chomiak, Manitoba’s Minister of Innovation, Energy and Mines, said that “there had been significant positive developments over the last few years between the mining industry and the aboriginal community in Manitoba.” He added, “The really good news is that the mining industry is looking for hundreds of workers in the future, and we have got a lot of people that are underemployed and a lot of First Nations people who want to be involved.”
Update (14 December 2009): Victory Nickel announced that the feasibility study for the Minago Open Pit Mine was positive. According to Rene Galipeau, this was a “major milestone” for the development of Minago. Early in 2010, the company will “create a project execution plan, begin road construction on site, select financial advisors to structure financing and submit the Environmental Impact Statement with a view of receiving environmental and operating permits before the end of 2010. In addition, consultations with local Aboriginal groups and other stakeholders can now be continued with a better understanding of the opportunities that are potentially available to local communities.”
Update (22 December 2009): Victory Nickel Inc. announced that it had expanded its property position at Minago by staking 11 additional claims at its 100%-owned project in the Thompson Nickel Belt. It now controlled the entire limestone outcrop, which will be used to produce building materials for the construction of access roads and a link to Highway 6. Building will start in the winter of 2009-2010.
Minago is one of “Canada’s largest undeveloped sulphide nickel deposits and has been shown to be capable of producing a nickel concentrate grading up to 22.3%, making it the world’s highest grade nickel concentrate. In addition to metal by-products such as copper, cobalt, gold, platinum, palladium, silver and rhodium, a layer of silica sand averaging approximately 9 metres thick overlies the nickel mineralization within the open pit. Approximately 84% of this 15 million tonne … sand resource is marketable frac sand, which is used to improve recoveries in the oil and gas industry. The frac sand forms part of the overburden that must be removed prior to mining the nickel ore.”
Discussion: How could the development of a new mine affect nearby Aboriginal communities? What additional things need to happen before this project gets underway?
Last updated: February 9, 2010