Rural area residents near Nanaimo are dead set against a mining operation slated to start up in their community.
According to the Ministry of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources, an application to amend a 1991 Mines Act permit for a site at 1975 Nanaimo River Road was submitted by Hub City Paving, a division of Lafarge Canada, in April 2018 with an amended permit issued July 5. However, the site is near Nanaimo River, bordering Boulder Creek, said Chris Cathers, an area resident and member of a grassroots group voicing opposition.
The property is zoned by the Regional District of Nanaimo for resource extraction, but Cathers said the designation was granted when the area was sparsely populated. The area has undergone development, with people still building homes and sub-dividing. His group started an online petition citing numerous concerns, he said.
A traffic study was conducted based on data recorded near Hub City’s main mine and Cathers predicts an increase of gravel trucks using the road. It is a concern, he said, as the road is known to be used by cyclists, motorcyclists, recreational enthusiasts and school children boarding buses.
“There’s no sidewalks. The roads are really in disarray, there are a lot of potholes and they’re not in good shape, so adding that many trucks on those roads, running through a residential community, is a serious hazard,” said Cathers.
There could be an increase of crystalline silica, a known carcinogen, worries Cathers. The area is windy and it could be carried a far distance. Cathers also pointed to the site’s proximity to fish-bearing streams and creeks, which could cause environmental problems.
Such operations require rock crushers and that could create noise pollution and affect quality of life, according to Jeanette Pongratz-Doyle, an area resident.
“No. 1, the sound, the constant shaking of the ground, which includes wells and water concerns,” said Pongratz-Doyle. “We have a lot of farms out there, so they are concerned about their animals and their quality of life.”
In an e-mail, the ministry said a public engagement process began March 19, with a public information meeting May 23. Snuneymuxw First Nation was also consulted. The amended permit authorizes “aggregate production of up to 100,000 tonnes per year,” it said.
Jim Dunkley, senior inspector of mines, acted as a independent statutory decision maker and attended the public meeting where “some opposition to the permit was voiced.” Major concerns centred on noise and trucks traffic, the ministry said.
Lafarge has been ordered to conduct a noise study upon start of crushing activities to address issues that may arise, said the ministry, and other conditions are that work is only permissible from Monday to Friday between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. Crushing will be allowed on a periodic basis, there will be a 30-metre buffer on Boulder Creek and excavations are to remain two metres above high groundwater. The ministry said traffic on Nanaimo River Road doesn’t fall under its jurisdiction.
Pongratz-Doyle feels the RDN is not offering support, but the RDN says it is not the approving body. Maureen Young, RDN director for the area where the mine is situated, said she sees both sides. Gravel is needed for roads and building homes, but she was born in the area and remembers swimming in the rivers when she was growing up.
“I would prefer that the Boulder Creek pit site was not permitted for gravel extraction and crushing, but that it could be left in its natural state,” Young said.
Cathers said residents plan to form a South Forks-Nanaimo River community association to represent their interests. He said the group is disappointed the permit was granted and plans to bring its concerns to the RDN and has met with both Doug Routley, Nanaimo-North Cowichan MLA, and Paul Manly, Nanaimo-Ladysmith MP.
As of Aug. 9, 760 people have signed the online petition.
Hub City Paving did not respond to requests for comment by publication time.