UPDATE: Quarry proposal near Thetis Lake in the District of Highlands
The District of Highlands has found itself between a quarry and a hard place.
OK Industries Ltd. applied to open a gravel pit off Millstream Road last year, but when council denied the rezoning application, they went another route. Now the company is applying through the Ministry of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources to open a quarry at the same location. This way, they don’t need to go through the district.
Locals are concerned due to the projects proximity to Thetis Lake, a hazardous waste disposal site and the district’s aquifer, according to the chair of the Highlands District Community Association, Scott Richardson.
“They’re going to be blasting right beside a poisonous waste deposit site,” Richardson said. “Which happens to sit over top of the aquifer we all rely on. We don’t draw our water from Sooke; we draw our water from the aquifer.”
The community response has not been in favour of the quarry, according to Richardson.
“No one is happy. I unfortunately live about five kilometers from where this quarry will be,” Richardson said. “There are people right across the street from it. With the dust and the noise and the traffic, and there’s no public input? There’s no public hearing? It’s insanity.”
The mayor of the district, Ken Williams, said that they have voiced their opposition to the B.C. government, and are waiting to hear the outcome.
“The council said that they weren’t in favour of having the gravel pit go ahead,” Williams said. “The information that went to the province is that we’re opposed.”
OK Industries Ltd. said they originally tried to apply through the district, but their proposal was rejected, according to general manager Mel Sangha.
"We purchased the property, I think it was early 2015, and went through a rezoning applicaton process with the District of Highlands to rezone the lands," Sangha said. "At the time when we were going through with this we indicated to the Highlands if the rezoning was to fail that we would be applying for a mines permit."
The plan for the land is to eventually level it to a point where it could be used for building, according to Sangha.
A local environmental lawyer, Calvin Sandborn, has been trying to get the government to change the Mining Act law, to provide municipalities more input into the process.
"The situation where the District of Highlands does not have input into the quarry points to a larger issue, which is that the mining act is over a century old, and it gives priority to mining over everything else, over municipal regulation," Sandborn said. "We have been calling for the government to revamp this outdated archaic mining law to recognize that local governments should have a say in these kinds of decisions."