A controversial proposed quarry on Sumas Mountain opposed by city politicians is set to receive its mining lease next month, but Bill Bennett, the province’s minister of energy and mines, says that doesn’t mean the project will ever begin operating.
Last October, the City of Abbotsford sent the province a letter in October objecting to the proposed quarry, which would extract decorative rock from crown land adjacent to Sumas Mountain Inter-Regional Park and just outside the city’s boundaries.
Concerns have also been raised by the Fraser Valley and Metro Vancouver regional districts, which share operation of the park, and Sumas First Nation. The FVRD memo says a quarry could impact First Nations cultural resources and impact the nearby park with noise, dust and vibrations. It could also create road maintenance, safety and traffic issues. The FVRD notes that zoning and official community plan policies for the area doesn’t allow mining.
The lease’s authorization by the Chief Gold Commissioner is now “imminent,” Fraser Valley Regional District staff told board members at Tuesday evening’s meeting. The mineral tenure act requires the commissioner to authorize such leases once the proponent has fulfilled certain statutory obligations. Those do not include an obligation to consult with local government.
That led all but one FVRD board members at Tuesday’s meeting – including all six Abbotsford representatives – to vote to send a letter opposing the proposal to the province.
On Wednesday, Bennett told the News Wednesday he would be breaking the law if he interfered in the granting of the mines lease, but that there are still two major hurdles the proponent would have to clear for its mine to become operational. The company – 266531 Ltd. – must have approved a “notice of work,” which Bennett says is not automatically granted. Such notices often pave the way for preliminary exploration and drilling.
To operate a full-scale quarry, the company would then need to receive a Mines Permit. Bennett said his ministry can put an unlimited number of conditions on the issuance of such a permit, and that it will also seek input from local stakeholders.
“Sometimes applicants lose interest when they find out how difficult it is to get permits,” he said. “The mining lease does not give this proponent the right to go in and construct anything.”
Although mining decorative rock area would supposedly create less traffic than a 2011 proposal for a gravel quarry envisioned at the site, Mayor Henry Braun said he is still opposed to a mine in the area.
He said the dump trucks that would be visiting the site “would ruin the city’s roads,” and taxpayers will “end up holding the bag for the restoration of the roads.” While the mining lease proposal envisions only one truck a day visiting the site, Braun he is worried that if a decorative rock quarry is approved, a shift to gravel may be in the cards if the operator finds the rock at the site to be unsuitable. The 2011 gravel proposal suggested the site would see an average of two dozen trucks accessing the site.
A mining permit would need to be amended or a new one obtained, in such a case.
Braun is also worried that the quarry would just be the start, with other operations eyeing the mountain.
“I don’t want to see that mountain denuded,” he said.