Over 200 people including local MLA’s attended an open forum session over a quarry expansion on the Saanich Inlet.
The Saanich Inlet Protection Society (SIPS) hosted the forum two weeks after attending a virtual session with the Environmental Assessment Office (EAO). The Society’s president says he received nearly a hundred angry emails and adds he was unhappy with how the EAO addressed their concerns.
“We told them how unhappy we were, how unhappy the public was, and as a result, we were going to have a public forum where people had a voice and they could ask questions,” said Eric Falkenberg-Potz, SIPS President.
Last year, SIPS raised concerns over the expansion of the Bamberton Quarry. The Malahat Investment Corporation (MICO) — owned by the Malahat First Nation — filed two separate applications within Bamberton.
The proposed expansion would increase the disturbance area from 39.3 ha to 45.7 ha, a 16 per cent increase. Its production capacity would also increase from 240,000 tonnes, to 479,000 tonnes.
Automatic environmental reviews are conducted when the disturbance area surpasses 50 per cent and if the production capacity surpasses 250,000 tonnes.
“The question remains, how do you get the same amount of volume from a shrunken footprint,” said Adam Olsen, MLA for Saanich North and the Islands.
SIPS, MLA’s Sonia Furstenau, Olsen, and residents are continuing their calls for the EAO to conduct an environmental review over the proposed expansions. This triggered an open public comment forum from the BC Government, which is open until Feb. 21.
During question period in Nov. 2022, Environment Minister George Heyman denied a request for a review.
Neither the EAO or First Nation attended the forum.
The First Nation has said it’s ensuring environmental safeguards are in place. In a seven-page letter to the public, the First Nation said there was no reliable evidence to support the adverse environmental impacts and called SIPS’s concerns “speculative”.
A request for an on-camera interview from Malahat First Nation wasn’t met, but during a phone call a representative said they’re finalizing details for a public forum for its mining project before the end of the month.