Mega-quarry threatens two key resources: water and foodland
Minister of Natural Resources tells Melancthon they can “get a nice golf course” out of project
By Kate Harries AWARE Simcoe March 31 2011
Highland Companies has filed an application for what would be the largest and deepest quarry in Ontario, in the headwaters of five major rivers – the Pine, the Grand, the Nottawasaga, the Saugeen and the Beaver.
The project is in prime agricultural land (16 per cent of the province’s potato crop is grown here), upstream of over a million people whose water could be affected.
Two important resources are at stake: water and foodland. The project is so immense that local councils and agencies can’t begin to imagine how they will be able to marshal the resources to evaluate it.
Does the Ontario government take its responsibility to protect our dwindling resources seriously? Well, Natural Resources Ministry Linda Jeffery recently expressed her view to Melancthon Mayor Bill Hill and Deputy Mayor Darren White.
“It is too bad that this has split your community apart,” she told the two after they had made a submission to her at the recent ROMA conference. “It is your job to get your community together, get them to think long term about rehabilitation, because this will not be going back to agriculture, but maybe you could get a nice golf course.”
Jeffrey’s lukewarm attention and evident lack of interest in Melancthon’s submission to her prompted Hill to complain to Premier Dalton McGuinty. “We were shocked and appalled,” he wrote. Melancthon letter to McGuinty.
The first and most immediate concern is that the Ontario government’s comment period which opened March 11 closes April 26 – far too short a time period to evaluate a project with many far-reaching consequences.
At its meeting last Friday, the Nottawasaga Valley Conservation Authority passed a resolution requesting that the deadline for comment be extended six months to August 26. Melancthon and the Town of Shelburne have also asked for an extension.
The NVCA faces a major task in evaluating Highland’s massive 3,162-page application. Melancthon Quarry application.
Simcoe County residents have a huge stake in the health of the Nottawasaga watershed. Our representatives make up the majority of the NVCA board. NVCA Board members.
The proposed quarry is to cover 2.400 acres and reach down 236 feet, well below the watertable. There are to be 16 pumps to run 24/7 forever to “manage” 600 million litres of water a day (the amount to be pumped is equivalent to what is used by a quarter of the province’s population in a day).
The proponent is the Highland Companies (although the name of the company that filed the application under the Aggregate Resources Act is 319574 Nova Scotia Company). The group is backed by a $14 billion US-based hedge fund operation called Baupost Group, with offices in Boston and other major US cities.
Highland began amassing land in Melancthon and Mulmur Townships, in north Dufferin County, about five years ago and now holds approximately 8,000 acres. It has cleared trees and demolished homes and barns.
In his 2007 annual report to the Legislature, Environmental Commissioner Gord Miller expressed concern that once proposals for new aggregate operations are initiated, they appear to be unstoppable, no matter the ecological or social cost.
The problem is that the regulatory process is skewed towards a presumption of development, where applications are never turned down, but simply amended, and amended again, and again, until they are finally accepted, under a process that costs the taxpayer millions of dollars in reviews by different levels of government and agencies, and takes as long as a decade, draining the financial and other resources of community groups and political representatives.
Miller urged the provincial government to reconcile its conflicting priorities between aggregate extraction and environmental protection. He suggested a new mechanism within the approvals process that screens out, at an early stage, proposals that conflict with identified natural heritage or source water protection.
Comments can be made via the province’s online environmental registry. Go to www.ebr.gov.on.ca and enter the number 011-2864. To comment in writing, send to Craig Laing, aggregate resources officer, 2284 Nursery Road, Midhurst, Ontario, L0L 1X0.
North Dufferin Agricultural and Community Taskforce (NDACT) website
Citizens Alliance for a Sustainable Environment (CAUSE) website
-NDACT public meeting Saturday April 2 at 10am at the Shelburne Legion, 203 William St., Shelburne.
-Highland Companies public meeting under the Aggregate Resources Act : Tuesday, April 12, 2011 from 7:00 – 9:00 p.m. at the Horning’s Mills Community Hall.