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Highland decries unprecedented Environmental Assessment of quarry

by David Meyer

MELANCTHON TWP. - The company behind what is being called a mega quarry here has issued a strong statement it intends to proceed with its plans despite a sudden ordering of an environmental assessment by the provincial Ministry of the Environment.

“Highland reconfirms its commitment to pursue approval of the proposed Melancthon quarry, despite last Thursday’s unprecedented announcement from the Minister of the Environment (MOE) to subject the project to the Environmental Assessment Act,” the company stated in a press release sent to the Advertiser after last week’s deadline had passed.

The company, controlled by a hedge fund based in Boston, stated it is proposing to build an aggregate quarry in Melancthon  - “away from environmentally sensitive areas like the Niagara Escarpment, Green Belt, and Oakridges Moraine.

“This project will help meet the demand identified by the government of Ontario for a reliable, secure and long-term source of high quality aggregates.”

John Lowndes of The Highland Companies said, “We are confident that a truly transparent and independent assessment of the proposed Melancthon quarry will demonstrate that we have taken a responsible and balanced approach to aggregate extraction that provides a long-term supply for the province while also protecting the community and the environment.”

He added, “We were surprised by the recent announcement of an EA, especially since we were already in talks with various government ministries and were complying with the rigorous requirements of the Aggregate Resources Act, the Environmental Protection Act, and the Ontario Water Resources Act.”

 The press release stated “According to the Ministry of Natural Resources’ The State of Aggregate Resource in Ontario Study (known as the SAROS report), Ontario faces a critical shortage of high-quality aggregate. Our population and communities are growing, and demand comes from having to build new hospitals, schools and bridges as well as maintaining an aging infrastructure. The report concludes that over the next 20 years, Ontario will require an average of 186 million tonnes of aggregate per year with most of the demand coming from the Greater Golden Horseshoe region.”

Highlands also cited the “benefits” of the Melancthon location for a 2,400 acre pit that would be dug 200 feet below the water table and require the handling of 600-million litres of water a day. Critics say the proposal threatens up to five major rivers, including the Nottawasaga, Grand, and Pine.

Highlands stated, “The proposed Melancthon Quarry is uniquely situated close to market but outside of areas identified as environmentally sensitive. The proposed quarry is in an area of low population density and offers a large quantity of aggregate that would supply the province for decades.

“Today, most high quality stone required to meet building standards in Ontario comes from one source – the Niagara Escarpment. In addition to being outside the Niagara Escarpment as well as other environmentally sensitive areas, the proposed Melancthon Quarry has no rivers, lakes or other water bodies; contains no wetlands, woodlots, or areas of natural and scientific interest that are considered ‘significant’ by the province.”

The company also cited local benefits if the plan is approved. “The Melancthon quarry would provide an additional 165 on site jobs and 300 trucking jobs, and would generate approximately $140 million in salaries and spending on goods and services, much of it in Dufferin County. For the local government, the quarry would increase revenue including the Township of Melancthon and Dufferin County.

“These increases would include about $750,000 in aggregate license fees and an estimated $297,000 in property taxes and education fees each year.

Critics disagree

Groups from across Ontario are opposed to the proposal. Opposition began in Melancthon Township and spread as far as Toronto. Signs against the plan can be seen in Wellington County.

Despite the Highlands’ statement, the Ministry of Environment has become tougher with its stance towards the proposal. Several weeks prior to the announcement of a full environmental assessment, the MOE stated the proposal:

- had numerous discrepancies between the text and the observations and data;

- the absence of a three dimensional conceptual model of the site, including the overburden stratigraphy, bedrock stratigraphy and connection of surface water features with the bedrock;

- geologic and hydrogeologic data not presented in three dimensions;

- statements and conclusions were made in the text that were not supported by either data or citations; and

- the recharge system proposal was supported neither by proof of concept data nor by comparisons with existing recharge systems at other quarries.

As well, Wellington Halton Hills MP Michael Chong has asked that a full federal environmental assessment take place.

He said there are species at risk there, and the Pine River, a navigable waterway, is also threatened.



September 16, 2011


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