A hydrology report commissioned by AJB Investments Ltd. concludes that the company's proposed gravel mine would have no significant impact on the Sunshine Coast's water supply.
The proposed gravel mine has generated much opposition, and at a public meeting in Sechelt Dec. 2, many people raised concerns about possible effects on water.
In a letter to AJB Investments dated Dec. 21, Ed Livingstone of Pacific Hydrology Consultants Ltd. considered three possible impacts on Chapman Creek from the mine: reduction of the groundwater feeding the creek, silt contamination of Chapman Creek and pollution of the creek by oil or other contaminants. He concluded all three risks were low.
Anthony Bing, operations manager for AJB Investments, released Livingstone's letter to the public Jan. 6. He said the hydrology report is available to the public at the Sechelt and Gibsons libraries.
Dan Bouman, executive director of the Sunshine Coast Conservation Association, said the public interest in the watershed is much broader than the issues addressed in Livingstone's letter.
"The public made it clear at the meeting this type of activity is not consistent with how the watershed should be managed," said Bouman. "There have always been quasi-scientific rationales for industrial activity in the watershed. That does not change the fact industrial activity has already done a huge amount of damage to the watershed."
Livingstone's letter said logging and mining of the 13-hectare site would not reduce groundwater.
"Due to the fact that all the large and medium-sized vegetation and the thin forest soil in the pit area will be removed, the amount of precipitation which would be returned to the atmosphere by evapo-transpiration will be very low; therefore, the infiltration in the area will be enhanced, and overall groundwater recharge volume will be increased by a small amount in the gravel pit area," Livingstone wrote.
Bouman called that argument a "rationale for deforestation" which does not address the public's concerns.
Livingstone's letter concluded the risk of silt run-off into the creek is "extremely low" because water will stay within the gravel pit and permeate into the ground. The letter recommends that AJB avoid groundwater contamination by having oil spill cleanup kits on site and placing concrete pads or pans under any stationary equipment, such as a screening plant, to catch any leaks. Refuse, such as old oil containers, should not be buried at the site, Livingstone recommended.
Livingstone based his conclusions on maps of the area and a personal visit to the mine site.
The Sunshine Coast Regional District opposes AJB's proposed mine, but the decision on whether to approve AJB's permit application rests with the provincial Ministry of Energy and Mines.
Bing said AJB has met all the requirements and requests from the mining ministry. "They're not waiting on anything from us," said Bing. "If they came back and asked for more, we'd give them more."
The mine is too small to automatically require an environmental impact assessment, which is something many citizens have asked for.
Bouman said the proposed mine is becoming a political issue.
"I'd be very surprised if this got the go-ahead before the provincial election. If the government approves this application, it pretty well leaves their candidates high and dry," he said. "If the current government survives the election, I'd look for an approval shortly after the community has to fight for its vision. It won't be getting any help from the ministry of mines."