Changes to Burnco Rock Products’ proposal for a gravel mine operation at McNab Creek are steps in the right direction, but will not satisfy the concerns of opponents, the spokesman for the Future of Howe Sound Society (FHSS) said Tuesday.
“When the original proposal came out, they were talking about anywhere from one to four million tonnes [of sand and gravel production per year] and they have scaled that back,” FHSS director Lea Bancroft said. “They’ve scaled the working hours back to normal working times, not working 12 hours a day, seven days a week. Those are steps in the right direction.”
However, Bancroft added, “the main problems are still going to come from resource extraction, noise and marine transport. Those are requirements of the project that are far more difficult to mitigate.”
Bancroft was speaking at Tuesday’s open house for the Burnco project, held at the Cedars Inn in Gibsons. Hosted by the province’s Environmental Assessment Office (EAO), the open house was an opportunity for the public to comment on Burnco’s proposal in the pre-application stage.
Although a second open house was held the following evening in West Vancouver, Bancroft and other FHSS members from the Lower Mainland joined Sunshine Coast members at the Cedars Inn, wearing identical FHSS T-shirts and handing out written materials to the public.
With provincial and federal environmental officials in the room, along with Burnco reps, Bancroft said FHSS wanted to have a strong presence “in order to give people coming out to this meeting a balanced vision of how the project is going to affect the community.”
In a Sept. 17 letter to stakeholders updating the project, Burnco regional manager Derek Holmes listed 10 examples of changes to the proposal from its inception, based on feedback from the project team and comments from regulatory agencies, First Nations and the public. They include:
• Avoiding McNab Creek, with no proposed discharges or withdrawals.
• Reducing the maximum depth of excavation below surface from 55 metres to 35 metres.
• Using electric-powered equipment for extracting, processing and loading to limit fossil-fuel emissions.
• Relocating the processing area to avoid fish habitat.
• Reconfiguring stockpiles to limit noise and covering components or operating under wet conditions to reduce dust.
• Limiting typical hours of operation to between eight and 10 hours a day, five days a week, during seasonal daylight hours.
• Barging waste off-site for disposal.
About one million tonnes of aggregate would be processed annually for the lifespan of project, estimated at 15 to 20 years.
In its critique of the project handed out at the open house, FHSS questioned whether the eight full-time jobs created would be local labour, calling it “highly unlikely.”
On the other hand, the fact sheet contends, the project would hurt jobs in the fishing industry, tourism, boating, hunting and the film industry. It would also “diminish the appeal” of five long-established summer camps in the area and hurt the construction industry on Gambier Island.
The EAO’s 30-day public comment period wraps up on Oct. 19
Following that, said Gerry Hamblin, the EAO’s project assessment manager, Burnco will review and address the issues raised during the comment period as part of its application information requirements.
“That’ll be really the next round of work in the process,” Hamblin said.
With about 65 people signing in at the Cedars Inn event, Hamblin said he was pleased with the turnout. Some members of the public, however, complained the EAO’s open house format did not provide meaningful consultation because there were no formal presentations or question period, and no written record of verbal comments.
Reporting on the open house later in the evening at Gibsons council, Coun. Dan Bouman reflected that view, saying he “wasn’t too impressed” by the EAO’s public engagement process.
“They give you some pretty pictures to look at, but not a lot of hard questions answered,” Bouman said.