A proposed gravel extraction project in Lake Errock that would expand current mining operations has frustrated some residents.
Robert Muckle owns a cabin and a kilometre of waterfront property, and says the pit would be located too close to existing homes which are literally a stone’s throw away.
Extraction already takes place on the cliffside known as Deroche Bench and is a visible scar on the lakefront, ruining the panoramic vista of Lake Errock, he said.
“It’s certainly not that any of us are against gravel or gravel mining per se. It’s just that when it’s happening right next door to your recreation property or your home, your principal property, it’s extremely disturbing,” he said, adding it’s excessive when so many other mines in the Fraser Valley already exist.
But Abbotsford-Mission MLA Randy Hawes, a former minister of state for mining, says it’s an “unfortunate act of nature” that the highest quality aggregate happens to be located in Lake Errock.
“It’s not a matter of saying, well, let’s put the gravel pits where we want.”
Hawes says he understands the residents of Lake Errock are looking for a politician to come to their aid against the gravel mining companies, but politicians have no power to interfere in the mining application process.
“The day a politician starts to say, ‘you can’t permit that one because the people don’t want it,’ that’s the day that a politician could really say, ‘you can’t permit that one because my brother has a competing business.'”
Walter Neufeld, president of the FVRD Citizens Association, says Hawes’ comments are typical in that nobody has taken the concerns of the community seriously.
The benchmark for meeting acceptable conditions for the ministry of mines is so low that almost no applications are rejected, he said.
There was a public information meeting July 25 in Mission inviting residents to comment on a proposed quarry, but Neufeld said the ministry doesn’t take into consideration input from residents anyway.
“There is one individual who holds all the power. And that’s the chief mines inspector,” said Muckle, adding there isn’t enough being done to preserve the ecology and environment of Lake Errock.
But Hawes said if local government were given overriding powers to block mines, then no municipal politicians would allow mining in their communities since local residents would hold them responsible in elections.
“You can’t make these decisions on a political basis,” he said, adding concerns from Lake Errock resident are largely based on self-interest and not ecology.
Hawes has been working with the Fraser Valley Regional District since 2004 to enact the Aggregate Pilot Project (APP), a regional bylaw application process governing aggregate operations that includes mining companies, municipalities, and the ministry of mines.
If the APP goes ahead then local government bylaws pertaining to quarrying could be taken into consideration during the permit process, said Hawes.
But Muckle believes the APP is a “backroom document created by the aggregate industry” that still wouldn’t give local government the power to stop mining permits.
“What the APP is doing is giving the aggregate industry carte blanche ability to rezone areas anywhere they please at their own choosing,” he said, adding they can override local zoning bylaws such as Lake Errock’s resort-residential.
A tri-colour mapping scheme is proposed under the APP where future gravel pits may be allowed, tolerated with restrictions, or banned from future expansion (though existing operations are grandfathered in).