O.K. Industries is building a quarry next to Capital Regional District land, as shown in this map from the rezoning applicaiton. (Photo courtesy District of Highlands)

Millstream Quarry wins again in court against Highlands community’s appeal

Judges rule province not obligated to investigate climate change before issuing permit

  • Jun. 16, 2021 12:00 a.m.

Opponents of a rock quarry in Highlands have been dealt another legal loss.

Three B.C. Court of Appeal judges ruled June 14 that although the mines inspector did not consider climate change impacts before granting a permit for the Millstream Quarry, “his failure to do so did not render his decision unreasonable.”

Justice Barbara Fisher wrote, “In my view, this is a submission that seeks a legislative response to a problem of global magnitude, but provides no basis for this court to intervene.”

She, along with Justice Anne MacKenzie and Justice Bruce Butler, unanimously rejected the appeal brought by the Highlands District Community Association.

The association argued that the wider impact of climate change should have been considered before a permit was granted by the province. Residents and the District of the Highlands have vehemently opposed the quarry since it was proposed in 2016, citing concerns about dust, noise, impact to the subsurface aquifer, road safety, quality of life and a negative impact on house prices for surrounding residents.

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Fisher found that the community association essentially wanted the mines inspector to take on his own investigation to “quantify the estimated tonnes of carbon which would be emitted through the life of the project together with the net impact of the loss of carbon sinks present on the lands.”

The inspector could have done so, but is not required to, she said. She also noted that the association was welcome to submit a technical report of relevant data, but did not do so.

O.K. Industries owns the property, which it bought from the province. It’s beside another quarry and a landfill, and the Highland’s Official Community Plan points to that plot as ideal for future commercial development.

Mel Sangha, corporate advisor for O.K. Industries, said when the quarry has finished blasting and crushing rock on the site, the land will be level and ready for development.

“The bigger discussion is the process. How is it we were able to get a permit when the community is so opposed?” Sangha said.

The District of Highlands rejected their rezoning application in 2017, but the Ministry of Energy, Mines and Low Carbon Innovation approved the permit.

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The District tried to enforce its bylaws – specifically requiring a tree-cutting permit – but were told by the court they have no jurisdiction to enforce its bylaws on the Millstream Quarry property, as long as it’s an active mine. The district appealed that decision in January 2021, but a court date has not been set.

In the meantime, work continues to clear and prepare the site.

The full decision can be read at bccourts.ca.

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