Mega-quarry threatens Niagara Escarpment and beyond
By Guy Crittenden Solid Waste & Recycling Magazine May 9 2011
The Citizen’s Alliance United for a Sustainable Environment (“CAUSE”) and the North Dufferin Agricultural Community Task Force (“NDACT”) have issued a news release about a company controlled by Boston-based hedge fund The Baupost Group that has submitted “Canada’s largest ever quarry application in order to extract limestone to a level 200 feet below the water table.”
Mega-Quarry Proposal Needs Full Environmental Assessment
Current Review Process Inadequate for Massive Proposal
News release from NDACT, CAUSE – May 5, 2011
A company controlled by Boston-based hedge fund The Baupost Group has submitted Canada’s largest ever quarry application in order to extract limestone to a level 200 feet below the water table.
The proposed mega quarry site covers 2,316 acres of prime agricultural farmland in Dufferin County, just north of Toronto, also known as the Headwaters area because it is the source of several major rivers including the Grand, the Nottawasaga and the Pine. Local citizens, community-based groups and a number of environmentally concerned NGO’s are upset and angry. They are calling on the McGuinty Government to subject this mega quarry proposal to a Provincial Environmental Assessment. An official request was submitted to Ontario Environment Minister John Wilkinson last week by the law firm of Davis LLP, solicitors for the Citizen’s Alliance United for a Sustainable Environment (“CAUSE”).
The mega quarry proposal would entail the ongoing management of 600 million litres of water every day, FOREVER. The blasting and extraction of limestone would destroy farms that are made up of Honeywood Silt Loam, a unique ‘high land’ horticultural soil with its own classification in the Canadian Soil Registry. It would interfere with the source water of these major river systems and could place them at risk. “The massive scale and potentially devastating environmental impacts associated with such a large industrial extraction operation warrant the most comprehensive environmental review available,” contends Carl Cosack, a local area farmer and Vice-Chair of the North Dufferin Agricultural Community Task Force (“NDACT”). “I am confident that most Ontarians would be shocked to learn that the government has yet to decide to subject the largest open pit mine of its kind ever contemplated in Ontario to a proper environmental review, “ he added.
The Provincial Cabinet has the option of designating this project as an undertaking subject to the more appropriate and comprehensive Environmental Assessment Act. As it stands, the mega quarry proposal requires a zoning change under the Planning Act and a licence from the Ministry of Natural Resources under the Provincial Aggregate Resources Act. “Consideration of the mega quarry proposal under these two pieces of legislation deprives the people of Ontario of a comprehensive review of the potential impacts that it could have on the environment, and instead effectively punts the approvals process to the Ontario Municipal Board,” noted Dr. Harvey Kolodny, a Director of the Citizen’s Alliance United for a Sustainable Environment (“CAUSE”). “We are calling on the Premier to exercise his good judgement to ensure that the interests of Ontarians are properly addressed under the Environmental Assessment review process” Kolodny added.
The following was posted on the Melancthon Township website PLEASE TAKE NOTICE that at approximately 10:30 a.m. on Friday, March 4, 2011, 3191574 Nova Scotia Company doing business as The Highlands Companies filed an Application for an Official Plan Amendment and an Application for a Zoning By-law Amendment on Part of Lots 18-23, Concession 1 OS, Part of Lots 18 and 19, Concession 2 OS, Part of Lots 17 to 21, Concession 3 OS, Part of Original Road Allowance between Lots 20 and 21, Concession 3 OS and Part of Lots 16 to 19, Concession 4 OS. Total Lot Area: 937.1 Ha (2,316 Acres).
The Application for an Official Plan Amendment is to “redesignate the subject lands to Industrial Uses with Special Provisions to allow for the development of the lands for aggregated extraction and associated accessory uses and the continuation of agricultural uses”. The application for a Zoning By-law Amendment is to “permit aggregate extraction including accessory uses and the continuation of agricultural uses.”
In keeping with Council’s intent to provide full public involvement concerning these applications and the proposed quarry, the Township is working toward scheduling a Public Information Session on either Saturday, March 26, 2011 or Saturday, April 2, 2011 (in the morning) at the Honeywood Arena. More details to follow.
Although the applications must be reviewed for completeness, they will be posted on the Township’s web site as soon as possible, along with all the related background studies submitted by the applicant. A copy of all materials will also be available for review in the Township office.
At the meeting of Council held on March 3, 2011, the CAO reported that she had received a call on March 2, 2011 from the Representative of the Highlands Companies who wanted the Township to hear first from the Company that the ARA application has been commenced and the application has been deemed complete by the Ministry of Natural Resources. One of the requirements under the ARA process deals with public notification process and the Representative advised that registered letters have been sent out to the property owners in the license area. The Township has been copied on this information. The consultation process will start in the next two weeks with ads being printed in the local papers and signage appearing on the property. It was advised that the other information and reports will be delivered to the Stakeholders, Agencies and Ministries in the next couple days. The Township will also receive a copy of this package and to be included in that package will be the application for the Official Plan Amendment and Zoning By-law Amendment. The Horning’s Mills Community Hall has been booked for a Public Information Session under the ARA process on Tuesday, April 12, 2011 from 7:00 – 9:00 p.m. It has been advised that Mr. Daniher and or the Highlands Companies will be keeping the Township informed as events unfold.
QUESTIONS RECEIVED AT PUBLIC INFORMATION MEETING
OCTOBER 5, 2009
Please outline or identify which of the applicant’s consultants’ and other reports Council intends to have peer reviewed? A – Those that are deemed necessary by our experts.What process does Council go through in order to select peer review consultants? A – We have our experts and they have either arranged for their extra people or “short listed “ them. Decisions cannot be made until we know who the applicant has employed as there cannot be a conflict of interest.
Does Melancthon have the necessary Official Plan and by-law provisions in place in order to ensure that it can require the necessary peer reviews at the applicant’s expense? A – Yes.
Does Council intend to engage consultants to undertake its own independent studies on surface and ground water impact (among other things), as opposed to only peer reviewing studies the applicant’s studies? If so, do we have a fee by-law in place, as is permitted under the Planning Act, in order to ensure that these studies are paid for by the applicant? A – Peer reviews are the “normal” practice and unless through the process “special” or more detailed studies are deemed necessary by our experts, peer reviews will be conducted. If studies are deemed necessary the cost would be the responsibility of the applicant as outlined in By-law 8-2007 and the application.
Will the Township, the Ministry of Environment or any other governmental agency, be implementing a process to assist residents and agricultural businesses to test their wells to establish an existing baseline for water quality, quantity, levels and flow? A – Yes.
Given the massive size of this quarry application, what steps can be taken by a member of the public, or governmental body, to require that this be elevated to a full environmental assessment to? A – We will investigate and respond as soon as we get the answer and post it on our website under “Quarry Update”.
Please identify all of the Provincial and Federal legislation, to protect our water resources that will apply to this application. A – The Planning Act, The Aggregate Resources Act and the Provincial Policy Statement and the Township’s Official Plan.
Will the Town of Shelburne be consulted with as it pertains to the quality of their water supply? A – They will be notified as part of the process. We are aware that they have requested information and other details from the NVCA. There has been no “direct” contact at this time.
Does either Council or the Provincial government intend to seek input for all municipalities affected by the Nottawasaga and Grand River Watersheds? A – There will be an extensive consultation process but we cannot at this time comment on whether “all municipalities affected by the Nottawasaga and Grand River watersheds” will be contacted.
Do the Ministry of Environment and Council and/or the NVCA intend to implement any of the recommendations outlined in the AEMOT Study? A – As we have stated before, mapping and some parts of the AEMOT study are referenced in the draft official plan. You will have to direct the question to the other authorities as we cannot answer for them.