O.K. Industries is looking to build a quarry next to Capital Regional District land, of which the aquifer sits underneath. This map was taken from the 2015 report for the rezoning application. (Photo courtesy District of Highlands)

Highlands Community Association petitions province’s approval of rock quarry

Association says province hasn’t adequately addressed public concerns

The Highlands District Community Association (HDCA) is petitioning the province’s decision to grant a permit for a rock quarry on Millstream Road.

A petition dated June 8 was submitted to the Supreme Court of B.C. between the HDCA and the province’s Attorney General; the minister of mines, energy and petroleum resources; Donald Harrison, delegate of the chief inspector of mines and O.K. Industries Ltd.

The quarry, which would be near the Millstream Road entrance to the District of Highlands, was first proposed in 2016 by O.K. Industries. More than 1,000 residents signed a petition against the proposal at the time and 3,000 others signed an online petition, according to the HDCA.

In 2015, O.K. Industries purchased the 65-acre property from the province and in late 2016 Highlands denied the company’s rezoning application to use the land for industrial purposes. The company then applied to the province for a Mines Act permit in 2017 which was granted in March of this year. The property has been zoned by the community as a greenbelt, the HDCA said.

READ ALSO: UPDATED: Province permits proposed gravel quarry in Highlands

In March, Capital Regional District Board unanimously voted to support the Highlands in opposition to the quarry proposal.

Concerns from the HDCA include impacts on the subsurface aquifer, noise and dust the project will generate for almost two decades. Road safety hazards from increased heavy truck traffic, possible negative impacts to the quality of life and house prices for surrounding residents and impacts on biodiversity are also of concern according to the HDCA.

“In its decision to approve this application, in our view, the province has not adequately addressed the significant possibility that ongoing blasting will cause toxic contaminants from the adjacent Millstream Meadows, which is a historic liquid waste dump, to migrate towards and contaminate our drinking water,” said Scott Richardson, chair of the HDCA board. “Rock could be mined almost anywhere, but once groundwater is contaminated it can’t be replaced.”

READ ALSO: Opposition to gravel quarry in Highlands gains traction

An unclear process and guidelines for public input into the project hampered the HDCA, Richardson said, despite them requesting clarification.

“After having attempted to actively engage the statutory decision maker, the chief inspector of mines, the mines minister and our MLA over the past three years, unfortunately our last remaining recourse is to take this issue to the courts,” Richardson said. “In the end we were denied due process and we believe the province hasn’t adequately addressed important public interest considerations, including the substantial health and safety, environmental and social concerns associated with this proposal.”

shalu.mehta@blackpress.ca


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