Monday August 9, 2010

Exclusive

CRV Stakeholders Speak Out Against Gravel Pit

Tolmie says consultation process has been exhaustive

 

                                                                                                                                                       Craig Hill/Voice photo

Ron Valor (L), Wilf Krickhan, Bob Stanton, Sandy Whitehead, Rick McDermid and Sara Ross at FVRD Mines Meeting regarding Southview Sorting's gravel pit proposal in the Chilliwack River Valley.

 

n late July, provincial government representatives from the Mining Sector met with FVRD stakeholders and residents to ask that the Randy Hawse, Ministry of Mines, deny a 40-year gravel pit application from Brent Tolmie of Southview Sorting on his crown land in the Chilliwack River Valley.

Glen Thompson and Susan Federspiel from Friends of the Chilliwack River Valley have been spearheading the movement against the aggregate project and say they aren't opposed to the industry, just not on that section of the Chilliwack River.

The problem is that Tolmie's gravel pit sits on top of a possible aquifer and concerns are that it could contaminate the water with things like silt and fuel spills from the 48-truck trips that Tolmie says will be traveling up and down Chilliwack Lake Road.

Another concern is the possible impact on recreation and tourism in the corridor which is used by 1.5-million visitors annually who come to enjoy a world class river for camping, fishing, kayaking and rafting.

Additionally, there is a train of thought that says add another 100 trucks to the already-clogged interchange at Vedder and Chilliwack Lake Road and there'll be gridlock in the summer months.

Safety is another issue that was talked about at the meeting and there were concerns about the safety of kids coming and going to the 16 school bus stops on the road with trucks whizzing by and rocks flying possibly hitting people.

Those in attendance at the meeting along with their comments are as follows;

Barry Penner, MLA for Chilliwack-Hope and Minister of Environment:

I want to say thank you to everybody who's come out today, this afternoon, to share your time. I know everybody has things to do and I thank you for making this a priority.

Obviously this is an issue that's attracted a lot of attention and rightly so, people are interested in Chilliwack River Valley, for those of you who don't know, once upon a time I actually worked there as a park ranger as part of my daily patrol of Chilliwack Lake Provincial Park in my somewhat younger days.

Over the course of the spring there's been a lot of commentary about the proposal for a gravel quarry on Chilliwack Lake Rd. and I felt it would be appropriate to try and get the various players around the table in order to try and hear all of the different steps that are involved with an application of this sort and hopefully have everybody hear the same information at the same time.

In the interest of trying to make sure everybody operating on the same understanding of what the rules are and how things work andso I appreciated everybody's efforts to make themselves available either here in person here today or via telephone.

With that I'd like to turn it over to the proponent, the applicant in this case, Mr.Brent Tolmie representing Southview Sorting. Maybe you can tell us what your proposal is from your perspective.

Brent Tolmie

Sure, I didn't have anything prepared, I didn't know I was supposed to, so, I'll just tell you the steps that I walked through.

(In) 2007 we saw the beginnings of the economic crisis coming through the forest industry so I set out to diversify my company and to find some gainful employment for people that have worked for me in the past, so, I went out to target aggregate because it seemed like a fairly transferrable skill set and heavy equipment and whatnot, which is what I do for my background.

Brent Tolmie, Southview Sorting Ltd.

So you look for areas that make sense in terms of trucking it to market and Chilliwack seemed to have a need of sand and gravel as opposed to quarried rock, which there's lots of, and so I went out to find an active gravel deposit. Worked on a few applications, feasibility, different areas; Harrison Lake, out towards Stave Lake, couldn't find anything that was suitable, where there wasn't already lots of competition and a healthy supply of sand and gravel.

So, found my way up to Chilliwack Lake Road, out to Larson's Bench. It was a piece (of land) that Chilliwack Forestry, I think it was the first piece that they logged under their current agreement with Ministry of Forests to arrange under their short-term licence and low and behold it looked like a great source (for aggregate), it had all the key elements that you need to identify a potential bed (with) decent access to market, proximity to market which is also a key, relative ease of extraction, as well as it seemed to be out in the middle of nowhere, it seemed to make good sense. So I put an application forward to get the crown tenure.

Now you apply anyone who's a resident in BC who's over the age of 19, can apply, to get a land tenure, and that's what I thought about doing. So, I hired professionals who helped me guide me through the process and got the process started. Now that started back in, I started my application process back in November 2007, had it ready and submitted it to Integrated Land Management Bureau in February 2008.

It's been in the pipeline for a long time and for those of you that aren't familiar with the process, then what happens is that they refer it out to all the various ministries including the Fraser Valley Regional District, MOE(sp), MOTI, DFO and the various types of others, and they come back, and if they have comments on the file then what you try to do is get a hold of the person that its affecting and simply arrange to meet them on site and see what you can develop so for DFO, for instance, we had a comment from Al Johnson( sp) I believe, and he wanted to know about the fish habitat on the site and as we identified it as a fairly dry site, there weren't any running creeks through it, he requested some more information so we sent a fish and wildlife biologist out there.

So that's an example of the process going forward. Then it gets involved in the crown (unintelligible) with First Nations affected in the area and it went through that process and because it's not in my experience, a super well-defined process, they have a duty to enter into deep and meaningful consultation and so they tend to do exhaustive consultation because it's a fairly open term so each ministry a duty to consult which they do and they go back and forth.

But I also identified that area (Larson's Bench) because it had been logged. Which means that they'd already done a hydrological impact assessment, fish and wildlife habitat assessments, and various things like that to identify as a good source.

(Tolmie explained that a lot of the problem in getting the gravel pit started is finding an area that's already been logged).

So it went through exhaustive consultations and so that doesn't mean that they have to come to consensus but it means they have to consult. So they did that and in May of this year we finally received an offer from the crown to lease that piece of land, which I accepted. So now I'm a crown tenure holder of the Chilliwack River Valley to the tune of 40-hectares.

Simultaneously, one of the areas that we had to identify was that it wasn't (in) the ALR (Agricultural Land Reserve) and frankly it didn't seem like it was agricultural land being across from Mr. Krickhan's property, it kind of made sense that it fall in that category because the government spent a lot of money developing that as a very viable growing site for trees.

So, I applied to the ALC (Agricultural Land Commission) for a permit to extract resources and they requested a study, and this is where the famous Madrone Report comes in, that was a specific study for the purpose of identifying not only a mine's plan but also a reclamation plan and identifying what soils were on site, how to remediate it back into agricultural use and one of the uses is crown timber. So that's what we identified with the site, sand and gravel, not much topsoil, the topsoil there is (unintelligible) and not much suited for growing other than trees. And so we did that and received permit from the ALC for the north end, so it is still in the ALR, and there's no intention of taking it out of the ALR ever. So that's part of it. That process probably took about 6 or 7 months, something like that.

Then we applied for a mine depth permit, when you apply to the crown, when you leave a piece of land you want to identify the purpose of what you're using it (for) so we're using it for the purpose of a sand and gravel quarry.

So that's done, at the same time you start working on your mines act permit, and they allow you to do that in anticipation of you getting your lease. So we started that process back in August 2009, and they go through all the same consultation processes. Now they have a different set of rules and regulations that they go through but essentially you submit a plan and this what we're extracting, what we're doing, how we're going do it, how does the operation work, how do you handle fuel, how do you do this, how do you do that.

Now my understanding, and you can clarify where it's at, but no decision has been made while it's under First Nations consultation and that's about it.

Penner

We will hear more about the process from some of the representatives I believe from the Ministry of Energy and Mines, but Mr. Tolmie, perhaps you can tell us more about the nature of your proposal itself. How many people do you expect to see working there, how many truckloads a day, what the volume etc, can you paint a better picture.

 

Tolmie

I plan to directly employ up to 10-people as well as hauling contractors so it could be upwards of 20-people and those would be well-paying jobs, that truck drivers tend to make in the $20-30/hr range, so it's a good well-paying job that you could raise s family on and again that was in response to report back in 2007.

The plan is to strip the topsoil off, and have it stockpiled on site so that you can use it for reclamation. Now what it is, is 40-hectares of which not all is mineable. There's about 28-hectares in total that looks to be adequate (unintelligible).

The plan is to go down with a slope that's cut for stabilization going down to the pit core and staying above the water table so it will be a cut excavation so as you're driving along you probably won't actually see any of the operation, it'll be below the road.

Sand products, stone products for drain tiles, for drainage products and also for concrete which is a big target. Concrete needs round rock finish as opposed to shot rock or fractured rock which is more like the hard rock quarried that is used nowadays.

The proposal is for 180,000 tonnes a year and royalties are paid in tonnes and trucks haul in tones and it's all in tonnes so that's what we're going to talk about. Those are metric tonnes, a thousand kilograms. The plan is for hopefully 20-24 transfer loads a day and hopefully that is market dependent but it was targets at 20 or 24 on the high end depending on marketability and it depends on what the construction industry is doing, what the demand is. So that works out to 1000 tonnes a day, 180-days a year, which is pretty good production. You're going to have downtime in the winter and when markets are slow obviously but that was the goal, was about 24-truck transfer loads a day and truck and transfer for those of you that don't know, you'll see a dump truck and he'll be pulling a quad-axel transfer which is two axels on each end of the trailer and then a box that slides into the back of the gravel truck for dumping so it's a good way to haul material, they're fairly safe, they steer well. It's a new concept to have most of the truck on the road fairly new and it's a good way to move material and of course it's much easier on the road.

Penner addresses Ron Bronstein, Regional Manager, Mining and Minerals who was on the phone in teleconference and asked him to tell those in attendance what he does.

Story to be continued. Photo gallery below.

 

Copyright (c) 2010 The Valley Voice

 

 

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