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Mission Hill project draws angry crowd

It was a harsh reception for representatives of Pan Pacific Aggregates (PPA) at a public meeting Sept. 17 on their application to renew mining north of Sechelt.

It was a harsh reception for representatives of Pan Pacific Aggregates (PPA) at a public meeting Sept. 17 on their application to renew mining north of Sechelt.

PPA has applied to the Ministry of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources (MEMPR) to mine limestone and dolomite from Crown land five kilometres northwest of the centre of Sechelt.

But concerned residents presented PPA and MEMPR officials with a series of difficult questions and barbed comments at the Thursday night meeting.

John McKenzie, a Gale Avenue resident, captured the public sentiment.

"I'm just shocked to see you guys back again. We're going to have to rename our town. Instead of the land between two waters, we're going to be the land between two pits," he said.

McKenzie's comments were met with cheers from most of the crowd of about 75 who attended the meeting.

PPA's plan, called the Mission Hill project, is to blast and extract up to 240,000 tons per year. The material would then be crushed and screened before being stockpiled and shipped according to David Pow, vice president of technical services for PPA.

Pow said the goal is to barge the material out from the site via Carleson Point and through the Skookumchuk Narrows. He said there is also some chance the company will need to rely on trucks to move the mined goods down Mason Road and Norwest Bay Road. Pow said the site would likely result in six to 10 new jobs with that number likely to grow as production rises. The total life of the mine is expected to be three to five years followed by a reclamation project.

Pow made a similar presentation to the Sunshine Coast Regional District (SCRD) planning committee in January, which drew criticism from directors on environmental concerns, trucking, blasting noise and dust issues. The only significant change since then in PPA's plan is to make use of Carleson Point.

Pow emphasized that this project is not associated with the previous PPA projects on the Coast, which critics pointed to at the public meeting.

"The management of the company has changed and the people who will be looking after operating the quarry have changed. We have been working diligently with [MEMPR] to ensure that all our operations will be in accordance with all the regulations and requirements," Pow said.

Residents questioned the safety of using more barges in Skookumchuk Narrows, especially following the July 19 tug accident in which a tug turned over in the narrows. Pow said he did not have information on how a similar accident with a load of limestone and dolomite would affect the narrows, but that the company would use qualified professionals for its shipping.

Garry Nohr, SCRD director for Area B-Halfmoon Bay where the mine will be located, spoke to the PPA representatives at the meeting, saying there was little trust between the community and PPA.

"I don't think there is one time the regional district asked PPA to do something that they did," he said. "They have not done anything to make the people here in the community, including the local governments, sure of what they are saying. You've got a long ways to go if you think local governments are going to buy into what you're doing."

District of Sechelt Mayor Darren Inkster was also present at the meeting.

In a later interview, Inkster said he would look into whether or not his government has the power to restrict trucks above a certain size from travelling on residential roads in West Sechelt. He said it would create a complicated situation where other large vehicles like moving vans would also be banned.

SCRD senior planner David Raphael said his department will be presenting a report on the implications of PPA's application for the SCRD at the Oct. 15 planning committee meeting.

MEMPR officials said there is no set timeline for PPA's mining application, but all the comments made at the meeting would be recorded for the ministry to review.