Winnipeg gets its water from Shoal Lake, which is on the border between Manitoba and Ontario and is located within the boundaries of two Ontario First Nations. Water from Shoal Lake flows to Winnipeg by gravity through a 160-kilometre-long aqueduct and is then stored in Deacon Reservoir.
While the City of Winnipeg works with First Nation communities in the Shoal Lake area, the federal government and the provincial governments of Manitoba and Ontario to make sure that development in the area does not affect water quality, there have been instances where it was felt there was a potential threat. In the late ’80s, Consolidated Professor Mines Ltd. initiated discussions with regulatory authorities and other watershed stakeholders to proceed with developing a gold mine and concentrating facility. However, a decline in gold prices resulted in Consolidated Professor abandoning the project. In the early ’90s, Kenora Prospectors and Miners Ltd. attempted to recover gold from existing tailings at the old Mikado Mine site using a cyanide leaching process, involving toxic chemicals. This operation did not succeed in achieving viable recovery rates because of technical problems in the extraction process and was subsequently abandoned.
In August 2001, a working group representing First Nations communities, the various levels of government and other stakeholders released a Shoal Lake Watershed Management Plan to help guide management of the watershed based upon achieving a sustainable balance among ecological, social and economic needs. The City of Winnipeg and the Provinces of Ontario and Manitoba have endorsed the plan, but as of early 2007, the First Nations communities, as well as the federal government (Indian and Northern Affairs), have not officially signed off on the plan. Despite that, a notification protocol for development proposals, as outlined in the plan, is being followed. This is to provide opportunity for comment.
Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce Recommendation:
- Restrict any activities within Manitoba’s Shoal Lake watershed that would be detrimental to Winnipeg’s water supply.
Adopted by The Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce board of directors, May 2007