O.K. Industries is looking to build a quarry next to Capital Regional District land, of which an aquifer sits underneath. This map was taken from the 2015 report for the rezoning application. (Photo courtesy District of Highlands)

O.K. Industries is looking to build a quarry next to Capital Regional District land, of which an aquifer sits underneath. This map was taken from the 2015 report for the rezoning application. (Photo courtesy District of Highlands)

Highlands quarry proposal heads back to court

Community association files Notice of Appeal in attempt to block mining on 64-acre site

A citizens group is taking another crack in court at blocking a quarry in Highlands.

The Highlands District Community Association is appealing a B.C. Supreme Court decision in June that cleared the way for a bedrock strip mine on a 64-acre site at the south entrance to Highlands, association chair Scott Richardson said in a release. A provincial mining issue was granted to OK Industries for the project in June.

As it did in June, the association’s Court of Appeal application names B.C.’s attorney general, minister of mines, energy and petroleum resources, the chief inspector of mines and OK Industries.

“The issue is too important and there’s too much at stake for the community to stop fighting the proposed mine site,” Richardson said. “At this point we have no choice but to exhaust all legal avenues to have the mine stopped.”

“By approving the mining permit, the Province has usurped our municipality’s ability to define the kind of community it wants. It’s clear the mining legislation in this province favours big industries and big companies at the expense of neighbourhoods, nearby residents and adjacent communities. It’s time to correct this David and Goliath imbalance.”

The approval of the permit also ”flies in the face” of the world’s climate crisis, Richardson said. “Premier John Horgan boasts about his government’s climate change policies, but he still allows a project of this size in his own constituency to skirt climate change analysis.”

Richardson claims the mine would cause extensive deforestation and degradation of a wetland next to Millstream Creek, and surrounding neighbours and wildlife will be subjected to ongoing noise and dust created by drilling, blasting and large machinery. “Public and wildlife safety will be at risk from increased heavy truck traffic on Millstream Road over the next two decades.”

“Not only will these mining activities negatively impact the quality of life and property values for local residents, the biggest risk of all is the threat to groundwater which Highlands residents rely on,” he said. “The strip mine site sits right next to a CRD toxic dump. The devastating potential for groundwater contamination is too great a risk to allow.”

The association has actively opposed the project since it was first proposed in 2016 and has mounted a #NotOK campaign. More than 1,000 residents signed a petition against the proposal – about half the municipality’s population.

More than 8,000 others have signed a Change.org petition as well, Richardson added.

The association has also joined the Highlands Stewardship Foundation in raising money at gofundme.com/f/stop-the-mine. The goal is to raise $35,000 and charitable tax receipts will be provided. Financial support has also come from West Coast Environmental Law and the now-defunct Highlands Preservation Society.

Lawyer Ian Knapp of Mackenzie Fujisawa LLP will handle the appeal. A court date has not been set at this time.

rick.stiebel@goldstreamgazette.com