Economy Features

Talk of the town: Silica sand and Manitoba

Silica sand under the microscope. Photo provided by Sio Silica.

Silica sand is a popular subject in the province these days with good reason. As the world soldiers on in the energy transition, the demand for silica sand is growing fast. According to new research from Fact.MR, a market research and competitive intelligence provider, the global industrial silica sand market in 2022 is estimated at US$14.5 billion and expanding with a 4.6 per cent compound annual growth rate (CAGR) through 2032.1 That’s a lot of sand.

Silica sand is used as a raw material in construction, glass manufacturing, paints and coatings, filtration, ceramics—even artificial turf.2

In 2020, the top exporters of silica sand were the United States, Australia, Belgium, Germany and Malaysia, and the top three importers were China, Canada and Japan.3

Manitoba’s silica sand

Silica sand matters a lot to Manitoba these days. While silica sand is found around the world, high-grade silica sand is rare. As it happens, southwestern Manitoba is home to some of the purest silica sand in North America—thanks to the Winnipeg Formation within the Williston Basin.4 According to the Government of Manitoba, the “sands of the Winnipeg Formation have been identified as being of very high purity, with silica values exceeding 99.5 per cent.”5 Until now, most of the sand in the formation has been used for glass production. It’s both the purity and the amount of sand in Manitoba that is attracting a lot of attention and investment.

The opportunity

Silica sand extraction is now a hot topic in southern Manitoba. There are two companies with significant interest in developing the province’s silica sand resources.

Sio Silica has plans to develop a silica sand extraction project near Vivian, Man. The company was granted a Facility Environment Act License in November 2021 for its proposed processing facility and is awaiting approval for the sand extraction. The Clean Environment Commission is reviewing the proposal once public consultations are completed Silica Sand. Sio Silica hopes to be in production sometime this year with its superior purity (99.9 per cent) Silica Sand. The company is also interested in what other industries can be attracted to the silica sands, such as semiconductor and medical equipment manufacturers.

Canadian Premium Sand (CPS) has plans for a solar glass plant at Selkirk, Man., that will use local silica sand in its value-added production. The Wanipigow Sand Extraction Project development is planned near Seymourville and the Hollow Water First Nation. CPS is currently in the regulatory process for the Wanipigow project. The company has previously been approved to extract silica sand, using a surface level extraction method, and has submitted a notice of alteration to reduce the amount of sand extracted and its overall footprint. Also, the City of Selkirk has approved an option to purchase a 121-acre parcel of land for the CPS solar glass manufacturing plant.

“We’re at the end of the regulatory process now,” says Glenn Leroux, president and CEO at CPS. “We’re hoping to begin the financing stage soon, and are optimistic that shovels will be in the ground later this year.” The planned project will create 270 permanent full-time jobs, with another 600 to 700 jobs created during construction. “We estimate that once we’re in production, our payroll will be approximately $20 million a year, and provide another $22 million annually in taxes.”


1Demand for Industrial Silica Sand Is Projected To Grow at a CAGR of 4% Through 2032, Fact.MR,
2Mineral Products Association (MPA), Silica Sand,
3Silica sands and quartz sands, OEC,
4,5Commodity Summaries: Silica Sand, Natural Resources and Northern Development, Government of Manitoba,


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