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Forget Paving Paradise, Let’s Just Dig a Giant Hole in It

Farmers in Melanchton, Ontario, begin a long fight against a giant limestone quarry—the largest proposed for North America.

20091114quarrysign.jpg

The farmland of Dufferin County looks exactly the way you’d imagine: softly rolling hillsides, the landscape dotted with old clapboard barns and quaint country houses, wooden fences neatly marking off the lots. Nestled in this terrain, about an hour and half northwest of Toronto, is the township of Melancthon (population 2,895), a small community that has been an agricultural centre for many generations’ worth of farmers. The soil in this region—Honeywood silt loam—is said by local farmers to be unique in southern Ontario, and is, particularly, ideally well-suited for growing potatoes.

This soil, which both holds water very well and drains very well, happens to sit on top of another valuable commodity—limestone. Under the farmland of Melancthon is a rich deposit of Amabel dolomitic limestone, which is prized for its strength and durability. Limestone is what’s called an aggregate resource; according to Ontario’s Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR), aggregate resources “include any combination of sand, gravel, or crushed stone in a natural or processed state. Aggregates are used in the construction of highways, dams, and airports, as well as residential, industrial, and institutional buildings.” The limestone in Melancthon is, by all accounts, both plentiful and of excellent quality, and would be in high demand if brought to market.

Since 2006 a corporate entity called The Highland Companies, which describes itself as “the operating and investment vehicle for a group of private investors based in Canada and the United States,” has been buying up parcels of land in Melancthon, purchasing it from local farmers and putting together a consolidated potato farming operation. The company’s intentions, however, are more complicated. Sometime in the next few months The Highland Companies will be filing an application to open a 2,400-acre limestone quarry, hoping to turn a significant portion of its farmland (it owns approximately 7,500 acres in Melancthon) over to aggregate extraction.


Carl Cosack ambles over to greet us as we pull up to his cattle ranch. A sturdy, genial, no-nonsense cowboy, Cosack, along with many other local residents, is deeply opposed to the proposed quarry. Worried residents have come together to form the North Dufferin Agricultural and Community Taskforce (NDACT) to try to combat Highland’s plans. The concerns are many, ranging from the process by which Highland is pursuing its goals (there have been accusations of bullying local farmers and overwhelming a small, unsophisticated township council), to the destruction of prime agricultural land, to permanent damage to the local water supply—which will significantly affect not just Highland-owned properties but the entire area surrounding the quarry site. Over coffee, Cosack spends an hour detailing Highland’s increasing presence in Melancthon. As our conversation winds down, we ask Cosack what effects the proposed quarry might have on his community:
[In] these small municipalities, we know every kid in town, and you build these communities that have local jobs and local residents there, to support your volunteer fire department, to support your arena, to take the kids to hockey… This sort of stuff that has generally defined us—people living in an area, sharing reasonable values, knowing how to get along, meeting at church, when you go to the coffee shop in Shelburne and four different people say “Hey, how are you doing? How are your horses?”… People know you, and you know people. This is what defines community—that when you go to commencement night and sixty kids graduate there are three hundred adults there. Where did they all come from? Because they care. Half of them don’t have their own kids in the graduating class, but they watched them grow, they watched them play hockey with their own sons, and then they go to commencement night to cheer them on. That’s community. And that will be no longer.

20091114carlcosack.jpg
Carl Cosack.

Highland first began buying up land in Melancthon in 2006. According to locals, the company was interested in building a sophisticated, larger-scale agricultural operation, and approached landowners under the guise of pursuing that goal. Rick Wallace, another farmer in the area, produces four to five million pounds of potatoes a year; he does it on two hundred acres. His family’s owned the farm since 1917 and has been supplying the Campbell Soup Company (among others) since 1965. A few years ago Wallace met with John Lowndes, who heads up The Highland Companies (and grew up not too far from Melancthon, in the Orangeville area), about selling a portion of his family’s property. During their conversation Wallace asked Lowndes what would happen to his land if he sold to Highland. “Oh well, not too much really,” he recalls Lowndes saying. Wallace, who decided not to sell at that time, was left with the clear impression that Highland was pursuing farming opportunities: “[Lowndes] was going to be a world-class potato grower.” The topic of aggregates, he says, didn’t come up.
As Highland bought up more property, residents began noticing troubling signs that the company had interests besides potato farming. It tore up trees that protected the soil from erosion, dug wells at the edges of fields where they wouldn’t be helpful for irrigation, and began negotiations to purchase a rail spur that was ideally suited for bringing large volumes of material to market. A consensus emerged that Highland was laying the groundwork for a quarry. Many were shocked. Says Cosack: “Out here it’s sort of different—when you lie it’s really hard to make up. We still do a lot of business on a handshake; however, if you screw it up once you will never in your lifetime do another business [deal] on a handshake… The Highland Companies and their associates have just plain made the mistake, as far as we’re concerned, of not having been truthful in the beginning, and by not being truthful everything they say now is deemed to be a lie until proven differently.”
Highland’s spokesperson, Michael Daniher, maintains that Highland’s actions were all congruent with the company’s desire to built a unified, efficient potato farm and to pursue diverse business interests besides agriculture. (The company lists four areas of operations on its website: farming, aggregates, rail, and wind energy.) All these actions were undertaken lawfully, he told us, and were fully within Highland’s rights as property owner. Moreover, says Daniher, Highland is committed to “a corporate vision for the area that is trying to contribute towards a sustainable future in a responsible way that is based—as the [township's] draft Official Plan has envisioned—on the area’s natural resources, and to achieve that balance between meeting the needs of a society that has indicated it needs more aggregate but to do so in a responsible way that contributes towards a sustainable future for the region.” Daniher also rejects the claim that Highland hid its intention to explore the possibility of building a quarry operation in addition to its other activities. “No question: when John [Lowndes] and the group were talking with potential vendors about…acquiring their property, [they] mentioned to a number of them that other land uses would be looked at over time… If people wanted to talk about aggregate, John was happy to talk about aggregate with them, so he was open during that process.”

2009114rickwallace.jpg
Rick Wallace with some of this year’s potato harvest.


Asked about local residents’ opposition to Highland, its quarry proposal, and its tactics, Daniher hits back hard:

[I]t is easy to make sensational and unsupported allegations. Our view has been that those allegations should be passed through the prism of credibility… We’re well aware that any proposed change in the community raises concerns… For some it may be as simple as that. Others would have their own agenda. A number of our critics, frankly, were in discussion to sell their land to the company but transactions were not concluded because, frankly, they wanted more money than had been paid in other transactions.

In 2008 Highland officially announced its intention to build a quarry. The company is currently working out the proposal’s details, including a plan for rehabilitating the soil for agricultural purposes once the limestone has been extracted, and a plan for maintaining the health of the groundwater supply. An official application for a quarry license will be filed as soon as this technical documentation is complete. In July of this year Highland held an open house, presenting some preliminary information about the quarry and affording residents the opportunity to ask questions about it. It went, according to members of NDACT, very badly: “They treated us really all like juveniles,” says Cosack.
A key aspect of Highland’s positioning of the quarry is that it will help build “a sustainable township.” To some, the implication is that Melancthon wouldn’t be sustainable without the quarry. This local residents vehemently dispute. We asked Wallace what kind of shape the community is in and whether it—despite some residents’ protestations—might really be in dire straits. “That was Lowndes’s spin,” he told us with a hint of anger. “I think we were all doing well here before. None of the people who sold [their land] wanted for much.” Cosack entirely agrees: “Since the Irish came after the Irish Potato Famine, people have lived here and built communities. So for [Highland] all of a sudden to decide that this is not good enough for those people that are here is pretty arrogant. Nobody invited them.”
One of the major areas of dispute between Highland and NDACT is the viability of Highland’s plans to restore the land, once it has completed the limestone extraction, back to agricultural use. Highland has outlined what it is calling a “progressive rehabilitation” plan: the company will actually be extracting limestone from three hundred acres of the total 2,400 at a time, and will rehabilitate each section as it goes. The claim is that this will be “rehabilitation to agriculture”—that the land will once again, after extraction, become productive.
Many locals just aren’t buying it. Neither is the Ontario Federation of Agriculture, which recently stated that “once aggregate extraction begins, the farmers who farm them (special soils) will be permanently lost. Moreover, the special soils, and their unique qualities, will be permanently lost.” When we broached this issue with Daniher he was adamant in reiterating Highland’s commitment to rehabilitation and said that rehabilitation had been successfully accomplished elsewhere (though he did not, when asked, provide specific examples). Daniher would not, however, commit to restoring the land such that it would be viable specifically for potato-farming: “The final enunciation of crops that could be grown has not been discussed in great detail simply because…that process has been ongoing… I’m not going to speculate on what the final outcome of the research process is going to be.” He also denied that the land in Melancthon is, in fact, as special as has been claimed. “The reality is that neither potatoes nor that kind of soil are unique to that area of the province—they exist elsewhere.”

20091114map.jpg
NDACT’s map demonstrating the size of the proposed quarry relative to the size of downtown Toronto.


But of all the many issues Highland’s prospective quarry raises, perhaps the most troubling is the state of the local water supply. If built, the quarry will be two hundred feet deep, well below the water table in this area. When an open-pit quarry is dug it needs to be dewatered: that is, any water that flows into the pit must be pumped out before the aggregate can be extracted. Dig below the water table and the quantity of water that needs to be pumped out will, obviously, be sizable. Local farmers are therefore worried that the quarry would permanently deplete the water table, that their wells may run dry, and that the land surrounding the quarry will be severely damaged. Because one of the key features of Honeywood silt loam is its ability to hold water, farmers in part are so successful there because they don’t need to irrigate intensively. The water level, in short, is essential to the well-being of the agricultural activity there. At the open house in the summer Highland outlined a plan to maintain the water supply; it did so by comparing the quarry to a basement that must be kept dry. The presentation board on this subject stated that, just like in a homeowner’s basement, a combination of walls and sump-pumps would manage the water in the area. Many residents found the analogy almost preposterously implausible.
The potato farms of Melancthon are atypical, not just because they are located on a particular kind of soil but because vegetable farming as a whole is relatively uncommon in Ontario. One farmer we met with, who asked us not to use his name out of concern for retribution by Highland, told us that “.0006% of the landmass in Ontario is vegetable land.” Why, he went on to argue, would you put a quarry in that land when there is a great deal of limestone elsewhere? (Implicitly, this is a rebuttal of Daniher’s claim that the land here isn’t unique. Whether or not it is, this line of thought goes, the land is still rare and special enough to be worth preserving intact.) Asked about Highland’s stated aim of rehabilitating the land, the farmer said, with a wry smile: “That’s hilarious… We’re sitting on the top of this area that is well drained. Potato is a root crop… that can’t be sitting in water or it’ll rot. So the best part about this soil is that water flows through it, and it has a two-hundred-foot filtration layer. If you take that away…it’s ridiculous.”
Highland is able to make its bid for building a quarry in prime agricultural land because of Ontario’s planning priorities, which privilege aggregate extraction over other land uses. Though the MNR administers the licensing of quarries in Ontario through the Aggregate Resources Act, it is the province’s Planning Act that sets out land use priorities and therefore determines the decision-making principles according to which the MNR will grant or deny quarry applications. Section 2.5 of the Provincial Policy Statement (PPS), a subsection of the Planning Act, prioritizes aggregate extraction, stating that “Demonstration of need for mineral aggregate resources, including any type of supply/demand analysis, shall not be required, notwithstanding the availability, designation or licensing for extraction of mineral aggregate resources locally or elsewhere.” That is to say, prospective operators don’t need to make a case for building a quarry—they don’t need to demonstrate, for example, that aggregate extraction is of greater value to the province or the local community than agriculture. The default assumption is that aggregate is valuable and that it may be extracted unless a reason can be shown not to do so.
And that will be one of the main things concerned Melancthon residents will have to do: demonstrate that the quarry poses a fundamental risk to the agricultural viability of the entire area or at least show that Highland’s plans for managing the water table are unsatisfactory. The Township Council does not possess the funds to commission an independent environmental assessment and has not—at least thus far—put pressure on Highland to do so. (Companies are often required to pay for environmental assessments in the course of seeking permission to conduct development.) NDACT has been working with an environmental engineer in trying to build its case against the quarry, but given Highland’s resources (one of the company’s primary stakeholders is the Boston-based Baupost Group, which according to some reports is valued at fourteen billion dollars) none of the NDACT members we spoke with believed such small-scale efforts will be enough.
20091114tractor.jpg
Highland spokesperson Daniher showed a great deal more confidence in the application process, telling us that “In terms of [the quarry's] impact beyond our property line, the reality is that no license will be granted unless it can be shown during the full and thorough and open review process that those issues and any concerns will be addressed.” Moreover, Daniher points out, Highland has every intention of continuing its potato farming operation on the remainder of its land, and thus it would not be in Highland’s own interest to damage the water supply. (The strict financial question of interest, of course, depends on how much Highland would earn for extracting limestone relative to how much it earns for farming potatoes. Daniher told us that he did not know the value per acre of Highland’s land in each of these scenarios.)
As for the matter of rehabilitation, it may not end up mattering whether the plans for doing so are viable—Highland may not ever have to seriously attempt it. Section 2.5.4 of the PPS, which deals with aggregate extraction in prime agricultural land, stipulates that “complete agricultural rehabilitation is not required if: (a) there is a substantial quantity of mineral aggregate resources below the water table warranting extraction, or the depth of planned extraction in a quarry makes restoration of pre-extraction agricultural capability unfeasible; (b) other alternatives have been considered by the applicant and found unsuitable.” Simply put: if you dig a hole deep enough to make rehabilitation of the land unfeasible, you are freed of the obligation to rehabilitate it.
In his 2008-2009 annual report, Environmental Commissioner of Ontario Gord Miller called for a greater sensitivity to environmental concerns in Ontario’s land use planning. He also commented that “Municipalities have little practical authority to restrict the approval of new pits and quarries under the existing land use planning system. They also are often reluctant to restrict new operations because of the costly possibility of facing an Ontario Municipal Board hearing. This skewed process often results in frustrated local residents feeling disenfranchised by both their local politicians and the provincial government.” A better summary of the sentiments expressed by every one of the Melancthon farmers we spoke with could not be imagined.

20091114armstrong.jpg
Ralph Armstrong.


One of the last farmers we met, described by several townspeople as the moral centre of the community, is Ralph Armstrong. A fifth-generation farmer, he refused to sell his property to Highland when he was approached in the winter of 2007. As Armstrong describes it, Highland’s representative simply showed up on his doorstep one day. “A knock came at the door, and this guy came in and he walked right in and over to the table and he said, ‘Here, I’m here to buy your farm,’ and he put the offer down. The whole thing signed right up…our lawyer’s name already on it and everything. He said. ‘Just sign right here,’ and he laid a big cheque out on the table.” And that, he said, more or less captures the company’s approach throughout this process.
After we’d finished speaking with Armstrong, coats on and nearly out the door, he stopped and asked us to turn the recorder back on so he could say one last thing. “This isn’t to do with Mary Lynne [Armstrong's wife] and I, with people our age. This is to do with people your age, and what kind of shape we’re leaving the Earth in. If we have clean air to breathe, and pure water to drink, and secure, top-quality soil to grow your food in—that’s three pretty important things. We need the Earth pretty badly, but the Earth doesn’t really need people. We’d better get our priorities straight.”
The Highland Companies and Melancthon residents are at the beginning of what everyone anticipates will be a very long and drawn-out process. Should the Township Council reject Highland’s application, the company can—and almost certainly will—appeal to the Ontario Municipal Board, a body that is widely described as having a strongly pro-development bent. As Highland prepares to submit its application, what the local residents we met are most hoping for is a public discussion about our planning priorities, a discussion that isn’t just motivated by market considerations but also pays heed to Ontario’s farming heritage, the desires of local communities, and the importance of a sustainable agricultural system. As a province, we owe them, and ourselves, nothing less.

Editor’s note: Since we first published this story, the Highland Companies filed their paperwork seeking permission from the province to open the quarry. The Ontario government responded by required a full environmental assessment of the proposal. Farmers in Melancthon and food activists across southern Ontario continued working to continue raising awareness of the quarry proposal, and held several major events drawing attention to their cause.

On November 21, 2012, citing a lack of public support, Highland Companies announced they were withdrawing their application to dig the quarry.

Comments

  • http://undefined Michal

    Have a look at the Toronto Environmental Alliance campaign on “Digging Conservation, not Holes”. There’s a youtube video: providing an overview of issues around the use of aggregate http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m67omvJ6YIE , as well as a report http://torontoenvironment.org/gravel . The campaigner working in this is Jamie Kirkpatrick (jamie @ torontoenvironment.org or @jskirkpatrick & @TOenviro)

  • http://paul.kishimoto.name Paul Kishimoto

    This is really excellent reporting.

  • http://undefined miningforthetruthinmelancthon

    This is an excellent article and it should make every person in Ontario nervous. Aggregate trumps everything and I get that we need aggregate. But if there is such a need for it, why are aggregate producers shipping this stuff out of Canada to developing nations?
    50 percent of all of the farmland in Canada is located in Southern Ontario. Once that is gone, your foodsource is gone.
    This proposed quarry is situate on the headwaters of the Grand and Nottawasaga River, the recharge area for more than 1 million people in these watersheds. When the water is gone it is gone.
    And Highlands talks a big story about rehabilitating the land, but the provincial legislation states that if they mine below the water table, they do not HAVE to rehabilitate anything, they can leave a big hole in the ground and let it fill with dirty water.

  • http://undefined Vincent Clement

    Simply put: if you dig a hole deep enough to make rehabilitation of the land unfeasible, you are freed of the obligation to rehabilitate it.
    That is false. You are freed of the obligation to rehabilitate it as prime agricultural land; Section 2.5.3 continues to apply and the owner must rehabilitate the land.

  • http://undefined Andrew

    “50 percent of all of the farmland in Canada is located in Southern Ontario.”
    Sounds like you’ve never taken a flight over the prairies.

  • http://undefined RealityCheck

    This is a truly horrible article, a massively long apologia for NIMBYism. Heck Melancthon isn’t exactly the only place in the province where potatoes are grown, a large number of communities along 89 grow potatoes (landforms are typically very large and extend beyond just a very small township, as the potato friendly soil does here).
    What the farmers are likely most frustrated about is their inability to capture more of their land’s value. The massive regulatory burdens to developing quarries have placed it beyond the ability of locals to develop, destroying one of the best value generators for farmers. A number of Ontario’s richest families have been launched by the wealth of aggregate quarries, but it is no longer an opportunity for small landowners to create a business. Instead of taking on the malicious intentions of bureaucrats and ignorant urbanists, these farmers have unfortunately turned against developers. Sad, but usually the goal of the ignorant urbanists.
    I note with amusement the contempt of the writer for the idea of aggregate. Perhaps the author is a full on BANANA or a member of VEHEMENT, but otherwise this derision for the need for aggregate is misplaced. Without quarries there would be no construction, and for reasons of economy and pollution reduction quarries need to be as close as possible to centers of development. Some of our laws and regulations haven’t been as fully subverted by maoist environmentalist, and this multifaceted need is reflected in planning regs.
    Hopefully the attacks against intelligent development will be turned back, but our politicians are rarely willing to stand up for development and our courts do not protect the interests of property owners against nihilistic leftists. See the horrible results of the Tiny Township protests and the cancellation of the Adams Mine dump.

  • http://undefined miningforthetruthinmelancthon

    Andrew, in fact 50% of all the prime agricultural land in Canada IS located in southern Ontario. This is well known by farmers, provincial planners and the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture Food and Rural Affairs.
    Here are at least three sites you on which you can confirm this fact and as well, google “Canada’s prime agricultural land” and you will have more articles than you can read that confirm this.
    http://www.greenontario.org/strategy/agriculture.html
    http://www.conservation-ontario.on.ca/stewardship/pdf/2005_english.pdf
    There is a huge difference between agricultural land (which is marginal farmland) and PRIME agricultural land.

  • http://undefined miningforthetruthinmelancthon

    Sorry Vincent, you are wrong. Read the following quote:
    “Donna Mundie, a resources land use policy specialist with the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, says ….Agriculture and aggregate extraction are considered compatible because land can be rehabilitated after aggregate use and returned to agriculture. The Provincial Policy Statement does require that the land be rehabilitated once the aggregates are removed but recognizes there are times this can’t be done. “In some instances there’s going to be such a big hole, you’ll leave water,” she says.
    For the entire article see this link: http://www.betterfarming.com/online-news/%E2%80%98aggregate-trumps-lot-things%E2%80%99-2154
    Donna can be reached at donna.mundie@ontario.ca for follow up should you choose.

  • http://undefined Andrew

    Fine, but you originally said “farmland”, not “prime agricultural land”, which is something quite different. The southern halves of Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba are basically nothing but a million of square kilometers of farmland, where they produce such “marginal” crops as grains, corn, potatoes, dairy, and a wide variety of livestock.

  • http://undefined TOgal

    This is the link to the petition opposing the quarry for those who would like to show their support:
    http://mail.ndact.com/blogs/forum/item_1.htm

  • http://undefined farmergirl

    RealityCheck, let me guess, you live in the city right? Your water flows through your taps via the city water systems, you love the constant white noise of the city, you don’t hang with your neighbours, you buy Prezzie Choice products,you don’t own animals and the air you breathe is tinged with exhaust. Well I live in the country where myself and over 1 million people’s water supply is about to go to the shitter, the nature sounds will be replaced with sounds of blasting, the air will be polluted, my neighbours are confused as to who is their friend, and we won’t be able to go outside and pull a fresh veggie for our dinner plate. This is what we are fighting for. Food and fresh water IS WAY more important than aggregate. Especially aggregate that isn’t even going to be for use in Ontario. Highland will be shipping it out via Owen Sound and Collingwood harbors. Before you get on your high horse there cowboy try to understand for one second how a 2400 acre x 250 foot deep beside your house would feel like.

  • http://undefined Fram Boy

    This is an excellent article.
    In response to “Reality Check” I was one of those who sold to this company. My understanding was that I was selling for a potato farm not anything else. The ignorance of your knowledge and comments insults this whole community. The folks here have a strong love of the land, quite simply want to preserve their rural way of life, the country side, produce good quality food and make an honest living.
    Those who sold received a good price for their land, and there are a few who asked for more given their particular circumstances. So what, that’s smart business and for most farmers its their retirement income that would not otherwise exist. I was among a number who may not have sold even with the prices offered had we known the intent of this purchaser. Various people asked Mr. Loundes the President of Highland Companies specifically if he was proposing pits or quarries and the answer was apparently no during the time he was still purchasing the properties. The story changed after many of the purchases were completed and it was obvious from the Companies actions that other interests were involved. For the company to try to spin this differently now only confirms the community’s belief that this company is not to be trusted with any of its claims or promises. The government agencies who will review the applications will also be made aware that the company cannot be trusted.
    So now unfortunately the community will fight an application that proposes a massive open pit mine among other development ideas that, if eventually approved, will change our lands, the environment and a way of life forever. You don’t have to be an environmental activist to be concerned! You just need some common sense.
    Despite their current claims, it is unlikely this quarry will be developed just to serve Ontario. No one is going to rebuild a rail line at the multi-million cost involved from Orangeville to Owen Sound (as stated) to provide the limited supplies needed to that area. The size of this application and plans indicate that this is to ship Ontario limestone offshore to other countries.

  • http://undefined farmergirl

    100 acres of limestone is enough to take care of Ontario’s needs for 40 years. This quarry will be 2400 acres. Highland will receive $18 million per acre. Get your calculators out gang. What percentage of all that profit stays in Ontario?

  • http://paul.kishimoto.name Paul Kishimoto

    malicious [...] bureaucrats

    ignorant urbanists

    maoist environmentalist

    (I have no clue what this means.)

    nihilistic leftists

    (The residents of exurban Ontario voted overwhelmingly Conservative in the last federal election.)
    A light sprinkling of this type of nasty, sneering epithet is a very reliable way to devalue your arguments.

  • http://undefined John Duncan

    I can totally understand not wanting to live beside a quarry.
    Operational impacts can be mitigated to an extent, but they still impact the neighbours. Even if, in a best case scenario, most of the land can be returned to prime farmland, it would still be out of commission for a long time. And we all need to do a better job on protecting our drinking water.
    (On that note, the protections in the Oak Ridges Moraine plan are excellent–if the Grand/Nottawasaga recharge area is comparable, you should be convincing the Province to create something similar.)
    But I do have to ask where you’re getting your numbers.
    The 100 acres of limestone for 40 years thing seems pulled out of thin air; what’s your source? And how did you convert to acres, an area measurement, from aggregate need, a mass/volume (~2.5 tonnes/m^3). What kind of depth are you assuming?
    Is the 2400 ac the area they plan to extract, or the total amount of land that is owned?
    Has Highland claimed that they’re going to be extracting 250′ deep? I’m having trouble with how they’d be able to get trucks in and out of that kind of hole. I’d also be very surprised if the kind of stone they want is present at that thickness (and not beneath too much other soil to be economically mineable) across the entire site.

  • http://undefined miningforthetruthinmelancthon

    Trust me, the people fighting this mine are NOT pulling figures out of the air. They have done their work. And it isn’t about not wanting to live beside a mine. It is about the water for one million Ontarians, the environment and loss of prime agricultural land.
    This company owns 7,000 acres. They plan to file an initial aggregate application for 2,400 acres and will be requesting to dig below the water table, which under the definition of the aggregate act defines it as an open pit mine.
    All of the mapping of the aggregate in this area is located in the Ministry of Northern Development and MInes and the limestone goes to depths of 200 feet.
    Geologists have calculated the value of this type of limestone and the depth to be $18 million an acre. AND have also determined that 100 acres of aggregate will suffice the needs of Ontario for the next 40 years. These are facts.
    This company is attempting to repurchase the rail line from Orangeville to Owen Sound to an open port at an estimated cost of one quarter to half a billion dollars. This train sure won’t be used for Sunday after noon pleasure tours, nor to supply Ontario with limestone.
    How will they get it out of a 200 foot hole? Take a look.
    Trust me, the people fighting this mine are NOT pulling figures out of the air. They have done their work. And it isn’t about not wanting to live beside a mine. It is about the water for one million Ontarians, the environment and loss of prime agricultural land.
    This company owns 7,000 acres. They plan to file an initial aggregate application for 2,400 acres and will be requesting to dig below the water table, which under the definition of the aggregate act defines it as an open pit mine.
    All of the mapping of the aggregate in this area is located in the Ministry of Northern Development and MInes and the limestone goes to depths of 200 feet.
    Geologists have calculated the value of this type of limestone and the depth to be $18 million an acre. AND have also determined that 100 acres of aggregate will suffice the needs of Ontario for the next 40 years. These are facts.
    This company is attempting to repurchase the rail line from Orangeville to Owen Sound to an open port at an estimated cost of one quarter to half a billion dollars. This train sure won’t be used for Sunday after noon pleasure tours, nor to supply Ontario with limestone-it will be shipped directly to expanding markets overseas. The company has not denied that.
    How will they get it out of a 200 foot hole? Take a look at the homepage for NDACT at http://www.ndact.com. This is how mining companies do it.
    Finally they plan to keep the water out of the hole while they mine by firstly surrounding the hole in the ground with what they delicately term a cement curtain. Sort of like the Berlin wall. Then pumping with pumps the size of your house and, get this, reinjecting it back into the acquifer. Yes, dirty water out of the hole they want to reinject it back into the acquifer that services more than 1 million Ontarians.
    AND when the last of of limestone is loaded on their train and shipped out of the country, they advised the locals at their July open house that to keep the water out of the hole, it will have to be pumped, monitored and the cement walls and pumps maintained until the end of time. NOT at their cost, but at the cost of whoever is anxious enough to purchase a 2,400 acre 200 foot hole in the ground with the resultant cost and liability.
    Please inform yourself, but do not accuse the locals of not doing their own homework. We have been living with this for 2 years now, figures are NOT being pulled out of the air.
    Finally they plan to keep the water out of the hole while they mine by firstly surrounding the hole in the ground with what they delicately term a cement curtain. Sort of like the Berlin wall. Then pumping with pumps the size of your house and, get this, reinjecting it back into the acquifer. Yes, dirty water out of the hole they want to reinject it back into the acquifer that services more than 1 million Ontarians.
    AND when the last of of limestone is loaded on their train and shipped out of the country, they advised the locals at their July open house that to keep the water out of the hole, it will have to be pumped, monitored and the cement walls and pumps maintained until the end of time. NOT at their cost, but at the cost of whoever is anxious enough to purchase a 2,400 acre 200 foot hole in the ground with the resultant cost.
    Thanks for taking an interest and asking questions and you can be assured the locals are NOT pulling facts out of the air.

  • http://undefined farmergirl

    Thanks Miningfortruthinmelancthon. Yes Mr. Duncan, unlike Highland who do pull figures out of the air and who really didn’t do all their homework thoroughly on this community or they would have known exactly who they are dealing with, we locals “ain’t so dumb as dos quarry folk tinks we is.” Their plan is to mine approx 300 acres at a time. From what I am observing of their pre-quarry preparation, they are almost complete readying the first 300 acres. Within the last two weeks alone, the horizon has been tinged with smoke coming from the Heritage homes they are destroying. A total of 12 homes and farms have been destroyed and they have fire permits for another 9. They are now putting up the frames for their application notices. And our local council is allowing this. I am hoping local Council will just resign now and let the experienced people handle this situation.

  • http://undefined rek

    RealityCheck is the last of the resident trolls.

  • http://undefined TOgal

    The slide show that The Highland Companies presented to the community on July 25, 2009 can be seen here:
    http://www.highlandcompanies.ca/index.php/slideshow/openhouse/
    It is a tragedy that the decent people of Melancthon County who sold their land, between 2006 and 2008 were not aware of these plans then. This is a crime against them and ALL Ontarians who care about the future of our land.

  • http://profiles.google.com/searchorangevillehomes David Waters

    When a child of 9 years old says “Daddy it's going to be me and my friends that has to deal with after all the rock is gone….Why are they doing this we will have no water or food? We can't eat rocks!

    I have to wipe away the tears as I write this…Ontario it's time to RISE UP and demand better from our Government! Write you MP!

    I was there making a documentary of the protest on Easter Weekend.

    Day 2 – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v
    Day 3- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v
    Day 4 – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v
    FINAL Day – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v

  • http://profiles.google.com/searchorangevillehomes David Waters

    When a child of 9 years old says “Daddy it's going to be me and my friends that has to deal with after all the rock is gone….Why are they doing this we will have no water or food? We can't eat rocks!

    I have to wipe away the tears as I write this…Ontario it's time to RISE UP and demand better from our Government! Write you MP!

    I was there making a documentary of the protest on Easter Weekend.

    Day 2 – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v
    Day 3- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v
    Day 4 – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v
    FINAL Day – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v

  • Caroline Flak

    Only in Ontario is this allowed to happen, this is the most regressive backwards place in Canada,(a police state province, more police here per capita than anywhere else in Canada) and the sooner you bloody people wake up and give Highland the boot, and reclaim your country, you might actually have a province that is worth living in, you guys in Ontario really ought to give your political controllers the serious boot too as they suck mega and are running your province into the ground literally.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=90406128 Dawn Heath

    Everyone for the quarry keep saying that its Highlands property and they can do what they wish, but these ill-informed people have obviously never tried to put an addition on their house or build a garage on their own property or else they would know that you must apply for permits and many time these permits are denied for any number of reasons. There are countless environmental reasons why Highland’s permit to dig a quarry should be denied much like our neighbours permit to add to his own house was denied- because it was going to be too close to his pond. (for example) Anyone who lives in this area knows all to well that you CANNOT do what you like with your own property, and I don’t see why highland company should be exempt from the rules that the rest of us have to abide by.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=90406128 Dawn Heath

    Everyone for the quarry keep saying that its Highlands property and they can do what they wish, but these ill-informed people have obviously never tried to put an addition on their house or build a garage on their own property or else they would know that you must apply for permits and many time these permits are denied for any number of reasons. There are countless environmental reasons why Highland’s permit to dig a quarry should be denied much like our neighbours permit to add to his own house was denied- because it was going to be too close to his pond. (for example) Anyone who lives in this area knows all to well that you CANNOT do what you like with your own property, and I don’t see why highland company should be exempt from the rules that the rest of us have to abide by.