Quarry must clear red tape

Pitt Meadow Mayor John Becker happy process not sprinting through provincial approval process.

Opponents of a proposed new Sheridan Hill quarry will be relieved to see that the project is not sprinting through Ministry of Mines approvals, but is being put through a more stringent approval process.

“As mayor, I am pleased,” said Pitt Meadows Mayor John Becker. “We’ve had a very open, formal and respectful relationship with the Ministry of Mines.”

However, as a resident of the area, he still feels trepidation that the top could be taken off the hill – a local landmark.

“I’m still appalled by the prospect of it.”

Becker explained the Ministry of Mines has ordered that the quarry proposal be subject to a regional mines committee review. Both the city and Katzie First Nation will be part of that committee.

The committee work is still weeks away, Becker estimated.

The committee chairman has yet to be appointed, or its appointees decided.

At the same time, the Katzie will be involved in a parallel process of first nations consultation.

Becker said the consultations should be important to quarry opponents.

“It’s a very positive step,” he said. “It could have been an internal ministry bureaucratic process.”

What environmental process the quarry proposal will be subject to remains to be determined in the coming months. Opponents have been critical of the fact that the scope of operations is just beneath the threshold that would require a full environmental assessment.

The proposal would blast and excavate 240,000 tonnes of rock per year over five years. It would remove the southern peak of Sheridan Hill, reducing its elevation by 30 metres, from 45 to 75 m.

Pitt River Quarries, which is operated by Lafarge Canada, works the northern section of Sheridan Hill and is not related to the operation proposed by Meadows Quarries.

Residents have organized rallies in Pitt Meadows and on the steps of the legislature in Victoria against the latter.

An online petition opposing the quarry has garnered more than 3,000 signatures, and a letter campaign has been directed at the Ministry of Mines, local MLAs and other government officials.

Katzie First Nations and Chief Susan Miller have voiced their opposition to the quarry, noting that they had not been consulted, their aboriginal rights and title ignored, and Sheridan Hill features in the band’s creation myth.

The committee process brings the quarry application closer to either approval or denial. Becker noted that the only way it could be derailed would be for the Minister of Mines Bill Bennett to step in. He can decide that a project is of provincial significance and render a decision, but the minister has traditionally only done so to approve a project.