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Full environmental assessments nixed for 2 Bamberton projects

Environmental and other groups fear for the impacts on Saanich Inlet
There will be no full environmental assessments on two proposed expansion projects at two sites in Bamberton owned by Malahat Nation, including the quarry close to the Malahat highway (pictured). (Citizen file photo)

There will be no full environmental assessment by the province’s Environmental Assessment Office of two controversial land-development applications in the Bamberton area, as was requested by a number of environmental groups and other organizations.

George Heyman, minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy, announced on June 27 that the proposed expansion of the Bamberton quarry near Mill Bay by the Malahat Investment Corporation, which is owned and operated by the Malahat First Nation, will instead undergo an enhanced review through the Mines Act permitting process.

The enhanced review permit process includes ongoing consultation with the Environmental Assessment Office, technical review by geotechnical, geoscience and reclamation specialists, and further engagement with First Nations and the public.


In making the decision, a statement from the ministry said Heyman highlighted that the concerns raised by the Saanich Inlet Protection Society and other groups about risks to the sensitive and unique Saanich Inlet ecosystem will be addressed by the enhanced permit amendment review process, coupled with the cumulative effects analysis to be developed in consultation with First Nations and the EAO.

The groups wanted a full environmental assessment of the Malahat Investment Corporation’s quarry project and the corporation’s proposal for a foreshore-area expansion, claiming both are linked to the long-term health of the Saanich Inlet.

Michael Simmons, a member of the executive of the Saanich Inlet Protection Society, said SIPS members are very disappointed by Heyman’s announcement.

He said the society is nervous that an enhanced review of the quarry proposal won’t adequately protect the environment.

As for the fact that the foreshore project is not even mentioned in the statement, he said the ministry already dismissed the environmental concerns on that in its interim report.

“We haven’t had a chance yet to read the statement, which is full of ideas of things that might be done instead of a full environmental assessment, and we need to study it closely before we respond.”


The plan for the quarry project, which would take place on a steep mountainside just off the Malahat Highway, is to further clear cut the area and expand a quarry operation there with the intention to mine 19.5 million tonnes of rock per year over 30 years, which would be double the present quota.

The foreshore-area expansion would see the foreshore extended approximately 100 metres further into the Saanich Inlet and cover 40 more acres of ocean, and the environmental groups claim that among the intended uses of the expanded area would be import and export of contaminated soil, the storage of hydrocarbons and barge and vessel maintenance.

Based on the feedback being received, the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy decided last year to delay the approval process for both projects pending a review of the society’s request to see if an environmental assessment is warranted, and to receive more public input on the proposed projects.

The SIPS and the Willis Point Community Association said in a joint news release last fall that the environment and residents around Saanich Inlet are already being negatively impacted by the land development proposals with work that was being carried out by the Malahat Investment Corporation, even before final approval of the two applications by the province.


The statement said Heyman reviewed submissions received from SIPS, First Nations and the public during the EAO’s review of the request to designate the expansion of the quarry as a reviewable project under the Environmental Assessment Act, along with the analysis by EAO officials.

He also considered a previous 1996 Ministry of Environment report on cumulative effects on the Saanich Inlet.

“Following the EAO’s review, Heyman participated in discussions with the ministries of Energy, Mines and Low Carbon Innovation and Water, Land and Resource Stewardship and the EAO to determine whether an enhanced permitting process conducted by EMLI in collaboration with the EAO, and a separate cumulative effects analysis within the Saanich Inlet by WLRS, could address the concerns raised by local residents and First Nations effectively, fairly and expeditiously,” the statement said.

“As a result of discussions with the EAO and ministers, and respecting issues brought forward by SIPS, First Nations and the public during the EAO review, EMLI developed an enhanced permit review process for the project.”

Reviewable projects require an environmental assessment by the EAO, and an environmental assessment certificate, to be approved by the province and to move forward to permitting decisions.

Tsartlip First Nation and Tsawout First Nation supported designating the quarry project as reviewable, asserting that a full environmental assessment would better ensure their Douglas Treaty rights are protected.

Malahat Nation did not support designating the project as reviewable.

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Robert Barron

About the Author: Robert Barron

Since 2016, I've had had the pleasure of working with our dedicated staff and community in the Cowichan Valley.
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