Monday July 11, 2011

The Gray Gold Rush

Hungry Companies Zero In On Sumas Mountain

FVRD Area C Director Bales appeals for more time and public consultation in gravel quarry application process

Submitted Wendy Bales, FVRD Dir. Area C/Voice file photo


am writing to urge that you do not support the referral and the permit application for the Sumas Mountain Quarry /266531 BC Ltd 479170 BC Ltd/Golden Pacific Aggregate Inc. (Sumas Quarry) gravel mine permit application.


As you are likely aware by now, the Board of the FVRD do not feel that there has been adequate time to assess this referral. As a Board member I also have not had adequate time and access to files and so my comments will be based mainly on what I know from living close to the area, and have heard in committee meetings. I have as well had quite a few years of dealing with similar issues and applications. I would also like to appeal to you to extend and allow a more realistic time period for the public to comment about this application in, as well as easier FOI access to files in order to make a fair assessment of the pit application possible.

I am sure that you are aware of the Attorney General's recent report that indicates that many government ministries are also not up to the task of assessment's, regulating, monitoring, and enforcing. I can also attest to that from many years of personal experience dealing with similar issues as well as gravel pits.


It is because of that that I wrote a UBCM resolution to amend the Mines Act that was passed by the FVRD Board in late May 2011 and of which you will find attached. It is for those reasons that I would also urge you not to forward or endorse this application to MEMPR, (or Ministry of Mine) as they are, both hamstrung by the antiquated Mines Act, as well as understaffed, along with other ministries in order to be able to adequately deal fairly on this and other applications.


They are also not in a position to consider or study long term sustainability issues as well as competing resource uses and cumulative impacts of the many pits already in the area let alone this one. In the last decade mining in B.C. has more than doubled (I don't have the exact current figures) while through the same period the MEMPR staffing is down by half. Reclamation of pits has fallen by about half as well, which has adversely affect watersheds, potable water and aquifer recharge and creates landslide and health hazards.


It is my contention that until there can be an independent review and serious changes made in the ministries that there shouldn't be any more permits allowed. Mine owners cannot be depended on to properly study and regulate themselves (they have not been), and taxpayers shouldn't have to either. In Australia they tax mining by 38% and yet they are doing well enough that they have come to Canada's recruitment fares in order to hire enough help for their own mining boom.


We need an independent arms length review, monitoring, regulating and enforcement agency, that is paid by fees
and taxes from those who are making the profits from our resources, as well as compensation to those adversely affected.

Although much of the opposition to this proposed pit has been around the detrimental impact that it would have on the neighboring park and the access route for trucking, of more concern to me is the cumulative effect to the watershed, habitat's and community health, safety and well being of area residents from having so many gravel pits operating in one area.

I do not live on Sumas Mountain or Area G, but as a resident and director for neighboring Area C, it is just across the river and in my view-scape on an average of about 4 or 5 days a week. Area C residents have had most of the same concerns as Sumas Mountain's surrounding residents.

One of those concerns is the cumulative impact of silica dust in our confined air shed. I often pass by the Sumas Mainland pit and others and see dust billowing around where they are working. To irritate this more we have been getting a lot more wind in recent years as well as a lot more exposed surface areas. In the below link an area resident talks about amounts of dust created by just one or two pits that can easily exceed Health Canada standards.

I have recently returned from a tour of 4 provinces back east, Nova Scotia, Cape Breton, New Brunswick and PEI of which I noticed many differences from B.C. One thing that was glaringly different after travelling almost 2600 kilometers is that we saw no gravel pits scaring up the view-scapes on the main routes or back tourist area roads. I did notice 2 pits on back roads as well as 2 depots where work was being done, as well as road work being done with local supplies. The difference between B.C. and the east was even more obvious flying over.


Similarly, their logging practices were also quite different as the trees that they selectively log (mostly in back areas) are a size that we just leave to waste or burn. Could it be that they have already learned the hard way that they have to manage their resources better, or that they have stricter and timely reclamation standards? Surface and aquifer water is also largely impacted as a result of too many cumulative clear-cuts over-development, and pits in an area. I often see news about huge sink holes and aquifers collapsing, which could take thousands of years to restore if ever.

In recent years I have become aware of the plight of the little known Mountain Beaver which is at the top of Canada's endangered mammals list. The Mountain Beaver is one of the oldest existing land mammals. One of their last known habitats is Sumas Mountain. Last year we did a presentation at the Deroche school about the Montain Beaver (Aplodontia rufa), so my interest is not new with this application.


Another species that would be risked are the hystrichopsylla+schefferi, also prehistoric and that are dependent on Mountain Beaver for their habitat. Other endangered species known to inhabit Sumas Mountain are the Pacific Shrew and the Giant Salamander, all of which need to be considered.

In closing please do not approve this application There are already far to many pits operating at this time in our area, with plenty of years of gravel left in them. While you are assessing it also please consider allowing the public and local governments a longer consultation period.

Thank you for your consideration.



Is it greener on the other side (eastern Canada)?


In regard to mining and forestry reclamation on tourism routes I would say YES. In regard to forest waste, selective logging and replanting, another big YES both from what I could see and from talking to a logger back east (although not all perfect).


They obviously take care and pride in their tourism industry and view-scapes for the most part, whereas what used to be some of B.C.'s most beautiful view-scapes and main corridors are now littered with excessive clear-cuts and gravel scars.

I also saw many examples of pride and care in the management of their water sources to promote conservation and potability, but that is another story.

To be fair I believe that they are at a different stage of awareness likely due to more years and lessons of mismanagement of their resources. They have long since logged their big trees, and experimented with toxins like agent orange in populated areas.

They depleted their Cod fishery, but are now learning to conserve and co-operating, in order to manage and preserve their Lobster trade. (but they are still fighting salmon farming in favor of preserving wild fish other aquatic life).

It is not all a rosy picture, at least not for the smaller family farm, but even some of their farm practices are more sustainably managed, but that is also another longer story.

In B.C. we are more like the wild west in terms of plundering our resources, much like what is still allowed to happen in third world countries.


Related Links


This letter with links went CC to: Murray McPhail, Senior Land Officer, Resource Authorizations, South Coast Regional Office; Ministry of Forests, Lands & Natural Resource Operations - 100, 10428 - 153 Street, Surrey, B.C. V3R 1E1 Email here.

Kevin Walker, RPF PAg, Resource Authorizations, South Coast Regional Office, Ministry of Forests, Lands & Natural Resource Operations 200, 10428 - 153 Street, Surrey, B.C. V3R 1E1 Phone (604) 586-4409 Fax (604)



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