The North Dufferin Agricultural Community Taskforce (NDACT) is a local citizens’ group fighting an aggregate license application by US-based hedge fund company, The Highland Companies, to mine for Amabel Dolostone (limestone) in the Township of Melancthon, Ontario, Canada.
The proposed Mega Quarry would be the second largest in North America and the largest in Canada.
Melancthon is located approx.120 kms north west of Toronto. This area is classified as Class 1 agricultural land, boasting a rare and unique soil called Honeywood Silt Loam which grows a multitude of vegetables (especially potatoes) and serves as a source of local food production for the GTA (Greater Toronto Area).
“Highland Companies has officially filed a 3,100 page application for their 2,300 acres up to 200 foot below the water table open pit limestone mine.
Quarry projects always pit the proponents of economic development — who stress benefits rising from the demand for aggregate, the money to be made and the jobs to be created in a declining economy — against local residents and conservationists who emphasize costs in the form of noise, dust, carbon dioxide pollution from trucking, community cohesion, traffic and safety, contamination of ground water and river systems, degradation of surrounding agricultural land, damage to the local tourism and recreation economy, and implausible or missing plans for the reclamation of the quarry land.
This project has the potential to negatively impact “ONE MILLION Ontarians downstream from the Township.” We are downstream.”
The Features of Mining Operations at the Mega Quarry Include:
- Mining operations at the Mega Quarry will take place at the bottom of a 200 foot deep pit, well below the local water table.
- To maintain a workable mining face, Highland’s plan requires that a system of pumps remove 600 million litres of water from the Mega Quarry every day.
- This is the equivalent of ¼ of the drinking water used by Ontarians each day.
- The Highland Companies plan to recirculate this water into the underground aquifers through a series of insertion wells.
- Groups organizing in opposition to the Mega Quarry have raised very serious concerns about how this water might be contaminated by exposure to the blasting and mining process and about the long and short term effects of this massive draining and refilling of the aquifer.
- There is no precedent for a water movement system of this scale in a quarrying operation, and this experiment will take place in a crucial hydrological zone.
- When the quarrying is over and Highland Company no longer has a financial responsibility to maintain the site, the pit will refill with water unless the pumps continue to run in perpetuity.
- The application indicates that 16 pumps will run 24 hours a day, 7 days a week in perpetuity so that there can be “quarry farms”.
- These “quarry farms” are being compared to the Holland Marsh and the Netherlands farming operations. Nowhere are there farms at the bottom of holes 200 feet below the water table.
- There is no information about backup pumps in case of natural disasters and no information about who is to pay the cost of running these pumps once the site is abandoned.
- Estimates suggest it will cost 6 million dollars a year to keep these pumps running. Farming will not pay for this.
Negative Impacts on the Community:
- The Highland application includes a promise of 400 jobs but there is no analysis of the loss of existing jobs.
- Most of these jobs are trucking and will disappear if the railway line Highland has offered to buy goes in.
- Highland says they don’t need an impact study on school buses as there are no schools in the Township.
- There are children and they are bused to school along the same route the 7,200 gravel trucks will take every day.
- The application has pitted neighbours who have sold to Highland against those who have not.
- The Mayor of Shelburne works for Highland and declares a conflict of interest every time the Mega Quarry comes up.
- Highland’s plan for moving the aggregate out of the Mega Quarry starts with trucking (3600 trucks in and 3600 trucks out, per day), but they are also planning for a rail link to the Mega Quarry.
- The County of Dufferin owns the old railroad right-of-way through the county, which is used as a public rail-trail (no tracks) open to the people of the county.
- Highland has proposed buying the right-of-way from County so they can build a rail link from the Mega Quarry to the port at Owen Sound. This railway right of way was a gift to the people of Dufferin County.
Negative Impacts on Farms, Local Business and Tourism
- Valuable food producing lands will disappear, notwithstanding the applicants claim that the land will be returned to food production in the quarry farms to be located at the bottom of the 200+ foot holes.
- The plans suggest an eventual return to “suitable agricultural” uses.
- There is no legal crop that can be farmed at the bottom of these holes that will cover the costs of running the pumps required to make the land useable.
- There are many quarries that are now being used for dumps.
- 7,200 large trucks coming and going every day on Dufferin Road 124 is a public safety concern for many reasons including snowstorms and drifting snow in winter, and tourists and cottagers visiting the Creemore and Collingwood areas.
- There is no analysis on the potential impact on surrounding crops, livestock and local residents of this truck traffic and blasting.
- According to current government legislation, there is no obligation to rehabilitate the site because it is below the water table.
Adverse Effects on Our Health
- There have been no consultations with the Medical Officer of Health regarding greenhouse gas emission and the impact on local health. We currently enjoy some of the cleanest air in the world.
- The blasting will create effects from the ground and air vibrations, along with toxic explosive residue, and each year’s blasting may well reach the explosive equivalent of half of the Hiroshima explosion.
- Explosives will need to be transported onto the site each day, causing risks to other road-users and workers transporting dangerous substances.
- The explosives proposed for use is Ammonium Nitrate Fuel-Oil or AFNO-based product.
- This type of explosive, like all explosives, contains toxic ammonia that has the potential to be released into the water table from contaminated rock, through spillage, incomplete detonation, through fissures created by the blast and through pit drainage/runoff.
- The toxicity of ammonia varies with pH and temperature, with lower temperature and pH causing an increase in the toxicity of free ammonia (and we know it’s cold in Ontario at times).
- What studies have been done to show that this product is safe for use in this location?
“You are strongly encouraged to voice your concerns about the proposed Melancthon Mega Quarry. Currently, there are two very direct means for you to advise the government that you oppose the project and/or insist that the McGuinty Government designate this project as an undertaking subject to a full Environmental Assessment.
Currently, the proposal is being reviewed by the Ministry of Natural Resources under the less rigorous Aggregate Resources Act. To advise the Ministry of your views and concerns, you can submit your comments online via the Environment Registry.
We also encourage you to write to Provincial Environment Minister John Wilkinson asking him to designate this project for a full Environmental Assessment. We also suggest that you copy your own MPP. We have attached some materials that can help you in this regard.”
Hon. John Wilkinson, Minister
Ministry of Environment
11th Floor Ferguson Block
77 Wellesley St. West
Toronto, ON M7A 2T5
Hon. Premier Dalton McGuinty
Room 281 Legislative Building
Toronto, ON M7A 1A1
You can also find a list of all MPPs online.
Please note that the online request of an environmental assessment must be done before July 11, 2011.
And the critical letters of objection must be received by both the MNR (Ministry of Natural Resources) and Highlands by July 9, 2011.
You do not have to be a resident of Melancthon to object. Anyone, wherever you reside, can object.
Please click on the following websites to find out more info:
You can follow @nomegaquarry.