With ongoing municipal support and provincial media coverage, the Friends of Agassiz and Harrison Hot Springs group continues to push ahead in its quest to stop mining activity one kilometre from the entrance to the local tourism municipality.
The future of the land
Construction is already underway near the site of the proposed aggregate quarry on District of Kent land.
While developer TC Merritt Valley Farms might use blasted materials from the quarry for other projects, the reclamation proposal listed in the application is for a residential subdivision. In order to develop the land properly for housing, the company first needs approval from the Ministry of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources.
It’s unclear how long the land would be blasted before being developed, but the application lists December 2030 as the proposed end date for mining activities.
The District of Kent has stayed silent regarding its stance on the project, telling The Observer that if or when the municipality receives a rezoning application for the land, it will need to be impartial.
“We cannot talk about plans pertaining to the subdivision until, if and when an application was made for one, as that would involve a public hearing and we cannot be seen to be taking a position without all the facts,” said Mayor John Van Laerhoven at the district’s council meeting April 23.
The mayor also presented the district’s referral response to the Ministry of Energy Mines and Petroleum Resources, listing a number of proposed conditions for the ministry’s approval, including a dust control plan, provincial Water Sustainability Act approval and an engineering review, to name a few.
The local opposition group recently started “phase two” of its letter-writing campaign, sending emails and letters to elected officials and agencies, including the Ministry of Tourism and the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure.
The group’s campaign leaders create letter formats for group members to fill out and send to the province and other stakeholders – with hopes that strength in numbers will give them a fighting chance to stop the operation from going any further.
A letter to Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture Lisa Beare focuses specifically on risks to the municipality’s top industry.
“Instead of tourists seeing beautiful mountains and agricultural properties when travelling into Harrison, they will see an open quarry mine that visually disfigures our beautiful views,” it reads.
It isn’t just the sights that have residents and business owners concerned. It’s also the sounds.
“Harrison Lake and local mountains magnify noises and echo throughout our valley. It is only a short distance from the proposed mine to Harrison Hot Springs and I have concerns that the noise from blasting at this location will travel to the center of our town and severely impact the peace and tranquility which both residents and tourists enjoy.”
A letter addressed to the Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Claire Trevena expresses the group’s concerns about the quarry’s location – 430 metres off of Highway 9, a narrow two-way road and the only route in and out of the Village.
“Hot Springs Road provides the local residents, tourists and visitors the only evacuation route in the event of a natural catastrophe such as forest fire, flooding or an earthquake,” the letter reads.
Large numbers of the concerned citizens have also sent letters to the minister of agriculture and the Agricultural Land Commission.
Committee member Harold Bruins said despite the lack of news from the province, the group remains motivated.
“We’ve kept up the momentum….We’re working now on phase three, which we hope to launch by Monday,” he said. “We have definitely got the ear of the people in Victoria. They’re listening to us.”