Robert Barron Citizen
The Municipality of North Cowichan has the right to limit the maximum loads of dump trucks on the access road leading to the Pastula open pit quarry.
Mayor Jon Lefebure said staff has been instructed to prepare a report on truck traffic to the quarry site, which is expected to be tabled in March.
An information session Thursday on the controversial quarry was hosted by Jim Dunkley, a regional director for the Ministry of Energy and Mines.
Dunkley was fulfilling a commitment to the community to outline the operating terms of the quarry prior to its operating permit being issued.
“My understanding is that we can’t do anything to directly prevent the quarry’s operation once the province has granted the operating permit,” Lefebure said to the packed council chambers in North Cowichan.
“But while we can’t control the site, we can regulate and control the roads that run to it. We’ve decided to move forward with a staff report now that we know the conditions of the permit.”
The issue of the quarry, first proposed in 2014, has been controversial in the region.
Richards Trail is a keystone in the area’s agri-tourism industry and is popular with cyclists, with hundreds using the rural road on a regular basis.
The Catalyst mill waterline also goes under the road, and there are signs warning against moving heavy equipment on the route.
The District of North Cowichan sent a letter to the ministry outlining its concerns and opposition to the quarry, and are on record stating that Richards Trail is not capable of supporting industrial traffic.
Dunkley said the permit limits the extraction of materials from the site to 25,000 tonnes per year during the expected lifespan of the project, which means approximately 11,000 truck loads will be moved from the site.
“That would mean about 10 truck loads a day,” Dunkley calculated.
Dunkley said the quarry’s operations will be limited to Monday to Friday, from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., which he indicated should go a long way in dealing with impacts to recreation in the area, as most recreational activities usually take place on the weekends.
He said the project was not required to undergo an environmental assessment as it’s considered too small.
He said only quarry projects that extract more than 250,000 tonnes of material per year are required to undergo assessment.
As for concerns around blasting, Dunkley said the blast contractor will be required to notify the ministry and residents within one kilometre of the centre of the quarry not less than 24 hours prior to each blasting.
Dunkley said that prior to the start of operations at the quarry, a baseline water sampling program will be completed with samples taken from the runoff coming from the site, Richard’s Creek, all wells on the Pastula property and the wells of two nearby properties.
“I know a lot of people aren’t happy with this project,” Dunkley said. “But we’ll do the best we can to be on top of the work there and deal quickly with any complaints.”
Donna Hickey, who lives close to the quarry, said she’s still not fully comfortable with all aspects of the quarry, even after the information session.
“There’s a lot of complex issues to deal with here, and my main concerns is with the impacts this could have in the watershed,” she said.
“But I feel that this process was good and I’ll feel a little more comfortable with this if the monitoring of the site will be as good as they say it will be.”