Concerns are being raised around a new aggregate quarry the Ts’uubaa-asatx (Lake Cowichan First Nation) is constructing on Youbou Road, but the First Nation said it is doing everything by the book and is disappointed by the misinformation and discrimination that’s spread in the community over the venture.
Neil Merrick, a neighbour of the project whose home is just approximately 30 feet from the quarry, said people living in the area were given no indication that a quarry was planned for the site and many are demanding that the Ts’uubaa-asatx hold a public forum to provide information and answer questions.
He said he fears what impacts the quarry will have on his property and his drinking water, as his water comes from a well on his land.
As well, Merrick said the industrial sounds from the quarry are loud and travel a long way, and he wonders about the quality of life for him and his neighbours with the operation so close.
He said following a community meeting April 17 at Youbou Hall concerning the quarry, a meeting that Ts’uubaa-asatx was not invited to attend, Merrick reached out to Aaron Hamilton, the Ts’uubaa-asatx’s operations manager, and the answers he received to his inquiries were insufficient.
The meeting was chaired by Karen Deck, the Cowichan Valley Regional District’s director for Youbou/Meade Creek, and roughly 40 people, mostly neighbours of the quarry, attended to see if they could receive any information about the industrial site.
“Everybody had a voice and most were concerned there was very limited information about the quarry available,” he said. “We also found out that there were no permits in place from the Ministry of Energy, Mines and Low Carbon Innovation.”
Everybody had a voice except the First Nation, which said it was unaware of the meeting and was not invited.
“After reviewing the detailed meeting notes, the Nation is disappointed and shocked by the level of misrepresentation and concerned about the unnecessary hysteria created as a result,” said a media release issued by the Ts’uubaa-asatx on April 27. “While disappointed by the CVRD’s actions, Ts’uubaa-asatx is optimistic and hopeful there will be a course correction. In the meantime, we will continue to step forward with integrity to the goal of achieving reconciliation both among our local governments and with the broader community of Lake Cowichan.”
The ministry has confirmed that no official applications have been submitted for the quarry, and no permits are in place for its operation. However, Ts’uubaa-asatx said it is commited to working with the government and following all the necessary procedures for the quarry, which could be in operation for 15 to 25 years.
“There are misconceptions that nations are unregulated and knowingly do harm to the land and resources for profit. This was the tone of many of the comments on social media in the Town of Lake Cowichan as well as in statements made at the ‘community’ meeting,” said the news release.
“We are regulated by the federal government and we will be adhering to all provincial conditions for an aggregate business under the Guide to Preparing Mine Permit Applications for Aggregate Pits and Quarries in British Columbia (February 2010),” said the release. “Therefore, our Nation is working with the B.C. Ministry of Energy, Mines and Low Carbon Innovation, who are aware of our project and are aware of our willingness to follow the requirements for the extraction of aggregates….”
“Ts’uubaa-asatx has also engaged a highly skilled team of professional hydrogeologists, hydrologists, geotechnical experts and environmental consultants who have been hired to oversee the investigative work and future development of this quarry,” the press release said. “In addition, the Nation will be having an experienced quarry operator, Stone Pacific, oversee the extraction and processing of the aggregates. The Nation has a long history of being responsible stewards of their land and cares deeply about the environment and the community.”
Tim McGonigle, the mayor of the nearby Town of Lake Cowichan, attended the community meeting.
He said the town is concerned about what impacts the quarry will have on its water-treatment facility that is located nearby.
“I was there as an observer, as the quarry is outside Lake Cowichan, but we need to investigate what could transpire as a result of the quarry because we have to provide potable water for our residents,” McGonigle said.
“There was a lot of concerns about the lack information about the quarry at the meeting and people were frustrated with that. Karen Deck gathered all the concerns and questions raised and said she’d look into it.”
Deck did not respond to requests for comment. Ts’uubaa-asatx members did, however.
“This Nation has put health and safety at the forefront since day one,” Hamilton said. “The first and second phases of North Shore Estates, the Band office, the installation of a Sportsplex for local youth – this Nation is talented in building a community and a future for their people.”
Councillor Melanie Livingstone agreed.
“The health and happiness of all community members are our priority,” she said. “Currently, we are building a small long-term care home across the highway from the future site of the proposed business. We have no interest whatsoever in causing irreparable damage to this land.”