COLUMN: No ‘sound of music’ in these hills

If you look to the east of downtown Abbotsford, the forested slopes of Sumas Mountain dominate. For most it is an area that is seen but rarely visited. It is assumed a place of woods and wildlife, where few live.

If you look to the east of downtown Abbotsford, the forested slopes of Sumas Mountain dominate. For most it is an area that is seen but rarely visited. It is assumed a place of woods and wildlife, where few live.

Sumas Mountain has a large park at its top, and a considerable adjacent area designated parkland on the south slope.

Sounds rather tranquil, but all that may change.

There is current application, and there have been others before it, that calls for an open pit mine of some 300 acres right in the middle of it, operational for a span of 100 years. In my mind, that’s forever.

Do I have a vested interest? Of course, I live on the only route the trucks will take as they trundle back and forth to the pit.

Am I NIMBY? Let’s see, there are already something like 400 huge gravel trucks rolling past the house every day, most with trailer units, many with incredibly loud engine braking systems.

Do I want more of them? Emphatically, No! Can the narrow, extremely steep mountain road handle any more trucks? Another resounding no, mostly for safety reasons.

So far there have been no run-aways – most units weigh 100,000 pounds or so – on a route where it is impossible to build run-away lanes.

But this is a mountain, and it does get snow. And it has people and families living on it, and school buses active morning and afternoon.

I have learned to co-exist with the open pit mine to the north of me. The operators have always been co-operative and, other than the incessant truck traffic, have in my case been pretty good neighbours. Others living here may not agree.

But it isn’t just one quarry that concerns. It is the proliferation, thanks to the quality of rock that makes up Sumas Mountain.  It is obviously a great lure to those who want to, at very considerable profit, satiate the hunger for gravel that feeds our economy.

Today, within a kilometer or so of crow’s flight, there is a mine to the north of me, and four to the south.

Much of the area within city boundaries is slated as future residential, some already here with Auguston just a stone’s throw from my house.

The problem is that when the portion of Sumas Mountain where I live was amalgamated with the City of Abbotsford, a substantial area was left as Crown land. And that leaves all of us at the mercy of the ministry of mines, whose mandate is to promote mining at the virtual exclusion of everything else.

I don’t have a problem with that mandate, but there needs to be other considerations taken when viewing 100-year tenure mining applications in a highly valued recreation area virtually within the “fifth largest city” in British Columbia; where the only access road is a narrow country lane; where more and more people are slated to live.

There is a huge need for crushed rock. It makes roads, concrete, and buildings, and that demand will only grow.

But there is a place for everything, and another large mine on this mountain isn’t one of them, despite its convenient location to transportation routes and population centres.

There are many other locations throughout this valley where mines can be placed that are far less disruptive, though perhaps a little more expensive for the operator to produce and deliver, and the consumer to purchase.

But when looking at a time-frame of 100 years, the big picture needs to be viewed, and many factors taken into consideration, like long-range impacts on the neighbouring areas, loss of recreational potential for the whole Lower Mainland, blocked access to parkland, future population trends, road safety and destruction of property values.

This is one mine application that must not proceed, and the mountain should be permanently declared off-limits to any future proposals.

markrushton@abbynews.com