A Wildlife Act permit granted to the operator of an Abbotsford quarry that is the site of a pair of rare nesting peregrine falcons has been suspended due to “non-compliance.”
A spokesperson with the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development (FLNRORD) confirmed on Friday afternoon (May 21) that the decision was made Thursday.
“The suspension was a result of non-compliance with the permit,” the spokesperson said. “The Wildlife Act permit may be re-instated upon confirmation of the compliance.”
He would not comment on what specifically Mountainside Quarries – the operator of the site on Quadling Road – had done to breach the permit.
FLNRORD gave approval in January for the company to move a rare peregrine falcon nest to allow the dormant quarry to resume operation.
Mountainside was required to meet several conditions, including creating on-site nest ledges and establishing new nest boxes and monitoring them for five years.
The birds are on the province’s “red list” for threatened or endangered species, and the provincial Wildlife Act specifically protects the nests of peregrine falcons, along with five other prominent birds.
Mountainside had obtained a mine permit in the spring of 2020, but they required the wildlife permit before they could start work.
As well, the City of Abbotsford issued a “temporary soil permit” allowing Mountainside to conduct “emergency work” that includes construction of an access road to complete required scaling and site stabilization before the mining begins.
The emergency work at the quarry began this month and, when it paused for a week, the birds returned to the nesting site.
Concerns among quarry opponents escalated when blasting occurred at the site on May 13.
The wildlife permit sets a 50-metre no-disturbance buffer around the nest and, although the work was set to occur within 100 metres, the opponents felt that was still too close and could cause stress to the birds or damage their eggs.
Chris Kitt has been a staunch defender of the falcons and other birds in the vicinity of the quarry. He told The Abbotsford News that the suspension of the wildlife permit is related to the 50-metre buffer zone, but work was continuing at the quarry on Friday.
He said the birds – who have been nicknamed Fluffy and Falco – are clearly stressed by the work going on around them.
“You can see by the way her head’s moving. You can tell when an animal’s on high alert, and you can tell when an animal just wants to have a nap and enjoy the sun,” Kitt said.
He said he’s concerned that the movement of the crushers and excavators on scene will scare the male and prohibit him from leaving to gather food and bringing it back to the female.
Kitt said the issuance of the mine permit and the temporary soil permit were contingent on the wildlife permit being approved.
A spokesperson with the Ministry of Energy, Mines and Low Carbon Innovation confirmed Tuesday (May 25) that the suspension of the wildlife permit means that Mountainside must also suspend all drilling and blasting operations until the wildlife permit is reinstated.
“Other activities authorized under the Mines Act permit on the site are allowed to continue,” the spokesperson said.
A City of Abbotsford spokesperson said Tuesday that the city has reached out to the Ministry of Energy to confirm the suspension and “determine if there are any potential impacts to work related to the city’s soil permit.”
The quarry had been dormant since 2012. Mountainside indicated in 2019 that it wanted to resume operations there, saying massive rocks bounce down the cliff and into the public right-of-way, threatening the safety of anyone using Quadling Road, including those who park on the road of access a nearby boat launch.
The company plans to remove 450,000 cubic metres of rock over seven years.