Bilcon wins NAFTA challenge against Canada over gravel quarry expansion

The Council of Canadians opposed the expansion of the Whites Point gravel quarry in Digby Neck, Nova Scotia by the Delaware-based company Bilcon. We also opposed the company's use of the Chapter 11 investor-state provision in the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) when the expansion of the quarry was rejected by the provincial government.

Metro News now reports, "A U.S. company that proposed expanding a quarry in southwestern Nova Scotia says it is seeking at least US$300 million in damages from Canada after winning a NAFTA ruling. ...Bilcon will seek damages during a NAFTA hearing expected to take place next year."

In 2008, the company had sought about $188 million in damages.

The newspaper explains, "Bilcon proposed the expansion at the Whites Point quarry in Digby Neck in September 2002 but the Nova Scotia and federal governments rejected it after a federal-provincial joint review panel recommended it not proceed. ...A NAFTA tribunal concluded that the joint review panel considered factors outside Canada’s environmental legislation that were not disclosed to Bilcon during the review process. The tribunal’s March 17 ruling says it was unjust for officials to encourage the expansion of the quarry and later determine that the area was a 'no go' zone for such a development."

The Council of Canadians and its allies in Nova Scotia have previously warned in relation to this case that a similar investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) mechanism exists in the not-yet-ratified Canada-European Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA).

This tribunal ruling follows the recent judgement in favour of ExxonMobil and Murphy Oil in their NAFTA investor-state challenge against a rule that required them to spend some of their profits from offshore drilling in the Hibernia and Terra Nova oil fields on research in development in Newfoundland and Labrador. More on that here.

For more on our campaign to stop ISDS in CETA, please click here.