Community Wins Fight Against Huge Quarry
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Community Wins Fight Against Huge Quarry

The Highland Companies has been working for years to try to dig a giant quarry in prime agricultural land, in the face of stiff community resistance. Today, the company announced it has withdrawn its application.

For several years, residents in and around the township of Melancthon, just north of Toronto, have been fighting plans for a mega-quarry in the heart of the area’s farmland. The Highland Companies, founded in 2006 with the help of a Boston-based hedge fund, filed an application to build a 937-hectare limestone quarry pit last year. Formed specifically with the idea of digging this quarry, Highland had spent several years buying up small farms to form a contiguous property large enough to meet its mining goals. Other local farmers immediately raised concerns about how the quarry would affect the water table and surrounding region, as well as the loss of prime agricultural land to the quarry itself. Massive fundraising food parties were thrown on-site and in Toronto, and after considerable public pressure the Ministry of the Environment ordered a full environmental assessment to determine what the impacts would be.

Today, the Highland Companies announced that it has withdrawn its application for the quarry and has “no other plans [for the area] at this time.”

A map showing the size of the proposed limestone quarry relative to downtown Toronto, prepared by NDACT, a community group that's been fighting the plan.

“While we believe that the quarry would have brought significant economic benefit to Melancthon Township and served Ontario’s well-documented need for aggregate,” writes company representative John Scherer in a press release, “we acknowledge that the application does not have sufficient support from the community and government to justify proceeding with the approval process.” A spokesperson for Highland told us this withdrawal is permanent, and that there are no plans to refile an application—should, say, there be a change of government at Queen’s Park. (The Ministry of the Environment was unable to confirm immediately whether there is anything that would legislatively preclude Highland from doing so, however.) “Highland will continue to focus on its farms and on supplying its customers with high quality potatoes and other crops,” the news release goes on, also advising that president John Lowndes had resigned from the company.

UPDATE, 1:02 PM: Shortly after the announcement Maya Gorham, press secretary for Minister of Natural Resources Michael Gravelle, issued this response:

We understand The Highland Companies has announced the withdrawal of their application under the Aggregate Resources Act to develop a quarry in Melancthon Township. There had been significant public concern expressed with the proposal. In recognition of this, our government took steps to subject this application to the Environmental Assessment Act. It appears the company has recognized this public concern in their decision to withdraw their application. Aggregate resources continue to be necessary for Ontario’s economy and the revitalization and renewal of our urban infrastructure, however we must strive to achieve an appropriate balance that also protects our water, natural heritage and agricultural resources.

They can re-file the same application. However, the reports that are submitted with the application may need to be updated.

See also:

The story of the Melancthon farmers