After a nearly three-year battle The Friends Agassiz and Harrison Hot Springs can safely declare victory – the quarry has been stopped.
Just three weeks before Christmas, senior inspector of mines Jim Dunkley made a decision not to issue a Mines Act permit for the property at 3628 Hot Springs Road in Harrison Hot Springs.
“I can’t believe it,” Harold Bruins, Friends spokesperson, said. “It’s a great win for us, for sure. We’ve been fighting this for almost three years. It started at the end of March 2018 and just came out of the blue.”
Bruins said the Friends were working to bring new MLA Kelli Paddon up to speed on the issue when they received a call from Mayor Leo Facio, who informed them of Dunkley’s decision. Bruins wasn’t prepared to hear about the decision so soon, expecting an answer closer to the beginning of 2021 due to the pandemic.
“On Friday December 4, 2020 notice was sent to TC Merritt Valley Farms that a decision had been made to not issue a Mines Act permit for the property at 3628 Hot Springs Road, District of Kent,” reads an excerpt from Dunkley’s letter.
“As far as we’re concerned, it’s dead,” Bruins added. “We’ve done our job.”
In March 2018, a public notice from TC Merrit documenting their intent to develop a quarry on Hot Springs Road appeared in the Agassiz-Harrison Observer, which asked for members of the public interested about the application to “make written representation” to the Ministry within 30 days of the notice.
Two weeks later, the quarry opposition group from both Agassiz and Harrison Hot Springs formed the Friends of Agassiz and Harrison Hot Springs.
Four days after forming, a group of more than 200 community members met at Harrison’s Memorial Hall to speak, ask questions and sign petitions to be presented to provincial legislators. During this meeting, Mayor Facio expressed his and the council’s support of the efforts to stop the quarry.
The Friends went door-to-door to gather signatures in a petition to stop the quarry, gathering more than 1,500 signatures. A Change.org petition garnered more than 6,300 additional signatures opposing the proposed quarry at Hot Springs Road.
Objectors to the quarry raised a number of concerns among Agassiz, Harrison and District of Kent residents, including noise, potentially dangerous dust, serious impacts on the tourism industry and potential damage to the ecosystem.
In June 2020, the council unanimously approved a resolution to write a letter of support for the Friends of Agassiz and Harrison Hot Springs. Bruins was quick to credit Mayor Facio for his work against the quarry.
“We wouldn’t be where we are without Leo,” Bruins added. “He was our voice in Victoria and made a number of trips down there.”
Lauren Mitchell, another advocate who has been working with the Friends since the start, said her parents owned property up against the mountain near the proposed quarry. She called them as soon as she heard about the decision.
“They’re just ecstatic,” Mitchell said. “They were concerned about the noise, the rocks and everything they’ve dealt with over the years.”
Though sometimes the uphill battle felt like hitting a wall, Bruins said the Friends never lost faith; he, Mitchell and Judy Barron worked together diligently, spending long nights collaborating on Facebook Messenger.
In terms of what happens to the activist group now, it’s too early to tell, but one thing is for sure – they all have a reason to rejoice.
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