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NEWS: Melancthon quarry set to be Ontario provincial election issue

Ontario-Quebec organizer Mark Calzavara at an anti-quarry protest in Melancthon

Ontario-Quebec organizer Mark Calzavara at an anti-quarry protest in Melancthon

NOW Magazine‘s Wayne Roberts reports, “The Ontario Election is still six months away (October 6), but the surprise candidate for most polarizing issue – likely to turn the political contest into an emotional cliffhanger similar to the one that won protection for Temagami years ago – has already stepped forward. The development of a 6-billion-tonne gravel ‘mega-quarry’, the second-largest in North America, in quiet farm and cottage country some 100 kilometres north of Toronto in Shelburne has set the stage for a faceoff between the Liberal government and a potent alliance of urban environmentalists and rural residents.”

“The go-ahead decision for the project now rests with the province, which lends the conflict between local citizens and absentee gravel pit owners all the elements of a David-and-Goliath Hollywood blockbuster, as well as raising a hornet’s nest of political issues.”

“Leading the anti side are a host of environmental and justice organizations including the David Suzuki Foundation (anxious about threatened species of birds and fish), the Council of Canadians (worried about future water scarcity), the National Farmers Union (concerned about disappearing prime agricultural lands) and local councillors of all political stripes (worried sick about the impact of noise and carcinogenic dust from continual dynamite explosions and heavy trucking).”

“Leading the pro side is the Highland Companies, which presents itself on the web as an ‘investment vehicle for a group of private investors based in Canada and the United States.’ It wants to create ‘a diversified portfolio of sustainable local businesses,’ its website says. Most references to the private investors lead back to the Boston-based Baupost Group, which manages assets for the 40 families that control it. The company is a hedge fund.”

Roberts highlights, “The area is blessed with rich soil and abundant water very close to the surface. The water table is really an underwater lake, (local potato farmer Dave Vander Zaag) says, and since water runs downhill, his and all farms in the region would see their livelihood drained into a gravel pit blasted 60 metres below the water table, the literal equivalent of Niagara Falls in terms of sheer drop. …In a world where crises of peak water will soon dwarf problems of peak gravel, and where plentiful water can secure a rich farm-based economy, it is folly to lose 600 million litres a day of clean water to seepage into a gravel pit. Prices for rainfall-reliant staple grains are already climbing due to reduced yields as a consequence of global warming. Faced with a trend line of global dryness, it is folly to risk a prime area for potatoes and other nutritious vegetables that can substitute for grains and serve the mass urban markets of southern Ontario. ‘Eat my dust’ will never be the slogan of the aggregate industry, but it could well be the legacy of obsolete laws (the province says aggregate must be sourced ‘close to market’) that have been revealed as a result of this dust-up. Let’s watch how the Liberals cope with what could be a lethal embarrassment.”

The NOW Magazine article is at