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Opposition grows to proposed Kitimat gravel quarry

The Kitimat Rod and Gun Association has lobbied the district over several concerns with a proposed rock quarry.

Posted on June 25, 2024

The Kitimat Rod and Gun Association (KRGA) is vigorously opposing a proposed gravel quarry northwest of town, raising substantial concerns about the impact on waterways and wetlands, contrary to the applicant’s claim that the site does not conflict with any environmentally sensitive areas.

The proponents, a limited partnership between Haisla Nation and Terrace-based Progressive Ventures Construction, have applied to the province to develop a sand and gravel mine on Crown land, two kilometres north of Kitimat. The five-hectare site, located on Lot 6072 next to an existing quarry, is projected to have a 12-year lifespan, operating six days a week, 12 hours per day, with an annual output of 50,000 cubic metres of material intended for local purchase, primarily from LNG Canada, according to the application.

In a letter to the district, the rod and gun club detailed several concerns with the management plan, noting “inconsistencies and gaps in critical information.” The association highlighted broad environmental implications for the area’s recreational values, critical habitats, wetlands, fisheries, wildlife connectivity, ecosystem, tourism potential, and social values, focusing tightly on the Kitimat River and Goose Creek.

“The proximity of Goose Creek, a critical water source, requires stringent measures to ensure zero risk to public water security, health, and safety,” the letter added.

The site lies within municipal boundaries and is currently zoned for G-5 Forestry. However, under the BC Mines Act, the province has full jurisdiction and does not require a zoning amendment to proceed with a mining permit. The province is nonetheless required to solicit the district’s comments on the application. Last December, council offered no objections to the quarry application but asked the province to encourage the developer to follow the local processes for either rezoning or a Temporary Use Permit. Council’s position has changed in light of public feedback and district staff’s visit to the site with KRGA.

In a report to council, staff confirmed a significant number of streams, creeks, holding ponds, and wetlands within the area of interest, supporting the KRGA’s environmental concerns that the applicant omitted several factors pertaining to their protection.

“The application appears to be unaware that there are streams and wetlands,” the report reads.

A particular concern is the site’s proximity to Kitimat’s only source of drinking water.

“As a result, there is a clear need to include measures to limit the risk of contamination to these water bodies.”

Staff recommended that council refer several district concerns to the province, including the preparation of a proper management plan for water protection, hiring a professional for water sampling, providing a Letter of Credit for reclamation costs, and completing a traffic analysis.

Coun. Terry Marleau suggested staff expand on the list by incorporating more details of the risks submitted by the public. He said he felt the project as outlined posed “some real serious danger” to biodiversity and public health.

“In my limited five-plus years’ experience on council, I’ve never seen such a minimalist approach on an application. It shouldn’t be a matter of waiting to see what happens. This could be a real, true disaster,” Marleau said.

Black Press has reached out to Progressive Ventures for comment. Last December, the company’s owner and president, Darcy McKeown, told Black Press Media he appreciates the district’s concern for a quarry operating within its municipal boundaries and will be responsive to any operational issues that might arise. The existing mine on the site, also owned by the applicant, has not produced any environmental concerns with the district, according to staff. However, staff noted there are no benchmark measures of the area. With this in mind, Coun. Graham Pitzel distanced himself from the opposition.

“It’s a rock quarry,” he said. “It’s doubtful there’s going to be such a substantial spill from a machine on site that’s going to migrate to Goose Creek.”

He pointed out there’s already a road and a railroad traversing the 500 metres separating the site from the creek. He supported the project provided staff’s recommendations for further study be followed.

“It seems to me, if the current mine is operating and doing it right…I think it’s sufficient to move forward.”

Coun. Michelle Martins challenged Pitzel’s argument, pointing out any damage caused by the current mine is not necessarily nonexistent but unknown without the benchmark data, as staff previously stated.

“We don’t really know,” she said.

As council debated, the district had only two days before the deadline to submit a new round of comments to the province. Mayor Phil Germuth, noting that the Haisla Nation is a partner in the project, indicated they should be brought into the discussion. However, with the deadline looming, he supported the motion to immediately submit the district’s comments. Coun. Gerry Leibel successfully motioned to amend them first, expressing the district’s desire for an independent environmental consultant to investigate the risks of the project, paid for with the district’s ecological reserve fund.

“I would hazard to guess that the quality and future of our drinking water really does warrant using money from that fund,” he said.

Leibel conceded the project is likely to proceed regardless of council’s or the community’s wishes.

“An environmental consultant can at least take what is before us and advise council and the community about the potential dangers in the future, so that we can plan ahead,” he said.

The amended motion to submit staff’s concerns was approved unanimously, with the provision a cost estimate for the consultant be provided before one is hired.

“It’s a long way from anything that’s built up, let alone residential…but to create disturbances for residents we’d have to go outside the Mines Act rules, and they’re pretty strict with enforcement. We’ve operated in the area for a long, long time, and we expect to continue operating in the area for a long, long time. We’re not going to risk that by making issues with anybody over things like dust and noise.”


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