Residents' associations in Sechelt are rallying to demand more information on possible impacts of Pan Pacific's mining operation.
Concerned residents have been inundating Ken Matheson, president of the West Porpoise Bay Community Association, with phone calls and emails about potential health impacts, noise and the mountainside scar from the mining exploration in the Crowston Lake area.
"The concerns of citizens are enormous at this time," Matheson said. "The proximity of the residences is so close to the mine site it's unbelievable."
As well, he says they are concerned about the effect on property values.
"The economic impact could be disastrous," he said. "I don't believe anybody in this town is interested in living in a mining town."
Bob D'Arcy, chair of the Sechelt Community Association, shares Matheson's concerns. D'Arcy cited a material safety data sheet from Lafarge, a construction materials supplier, which states certain rocks and minerals, present at the mining site, are toxic and carcinogenic. He is concerned if the company crushes and grinds wollastonite and gabbro, for example, the dust would pollute the air. As well, if the company sends materials such as limestone by barge through Sechelt Inlet or out of Halfmoon Bay, there could be a conveyor belt running down the hill, and the limestone could spill into the water, he said.
However, the residents' groups are still gathering information and say it's too early in the mining project to know for sure what the health effects could be. "This has all gone on so fast," D'Arcy said.
Residents held an emergency meeting June 14 to share concerns and discuss options.
Jan Williams, a West Porpoise Bay resident, can see the mining activity from her window.
"We're not happy with a mine within two kilometres of where we live," Williams said. "Most of the community has no clue what's going on up there. We want information."
She said one of the options the homeowners can take is to seek legal advice.
Pan Pacific is operating under a mining permit from the provincial government, which doesn't require consultation with local governments.
The mining site is within the Sunshine Coast Regional District. SCRD chair Ed Steeves said planning staff are researching whether Pan Pacific needs to apply for rezoning for its mining activities.
Residents adjacent to the site are within the District of Sechelt. Mayor Cam Reid said North Gale Road residents have been calling the district with concerns about noise and dust, so Reid went up on a tour of the site with Pan Pacific executives.
"The company is being very open and co-operative and wanting to explain to us and the community what they're doing," Reid said. "We're working to understand exactly what's happening, to make sure the community's issues are identified."
He added it's too early to say whether there will be impacts.
The District of Sechelt will be working with the SCRD, the community and Pan Pacific through meetings, he said. Pan Pacific assured him they want to work with the community to respond to any issues.
Pan Pacific spokesperson Gayle Bukowsky said the company plans to arrange meetings with representatives from residents' groups in the next few weeks. As well, Pan Pacific is offering tours so people can see what's going on at the site.
Pan Pacific geologist Richard Munroe said their plans for the next few months are to clean up the rock rubble from past operations by putting it through a crusher. He said there is one portable crusher on site, which he expects to start using June 20. Pan Pacific will drag out wollastonite with a backhoe, he said.
"There's going to be dust, but the amount of dust will be minimal," Munroe said.
He said his company is still in the planning process, and once he knows the process, he will tell people.
Transporting materials by water and a conveyor is always preferable, he said.