The 45-day public comment period opened Monday for the environmental assessment of Burnco Rock Products’ proposed aggregate mine at McNab Creek on Howe Sound.
As well as an OK from the BC Environmental Assessment Office (EAO) and Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency (CEAA), Burnco needs to get rezoning approval from the Sunshine Coast Regional District (SCRD) for some of the project’s infrastructure.
The hard copy of the application is some 5,000 pages long, in about nine binders of material, and that has SCRD director Ian Winn of West Howe Sound worried about how easy it’s going to be for people to respond.
“It’s a very large volume of material to review and prepare comments on during the summer when a lot of people are on vacations. This will probably be a concern for many of the agencies and governments that this application has been referred to, as well as many of the stakeholder groups that will want to respond with comments,” Winn told Coast Reporter.
“In fact I’ve heard from residents of McNab Creek Estates that they are feeling overwhelmed by the volume of material and are concerned that they won’t have enough time for due diligence in the review and comment period.”
Troy Speedie is president of the strata for the 16 residential lots at McNab Creek Estates, which is directly adjacent to Burnco’s property.
“Our residents have had numerous meetings in the pre-application stage with Burnco representatives to express our significant concerns and provided our comments to the SCRD and Burnco at that time. We continue to engage with Burnco and are presently working out a time to meet again,” Speedie said, adding that the strata owners are considering hiring an environmental consultant to help them review the application.
Burnco CEO Mike Powell said the company is eager to have that meeting.
“There are a number of things we want to talk to them about,” he said. “We certainly understand their concerns, because they really don’t know what’s going on in there [at the site]. We really want to engage [the strata] separately and show them what we’re doing. There’s a fair bit of misinformation out there.”
Powell said the company also hopes to have something to offer the community if the project goes forward. “We need to talk about amenities we can bring to them. Things that will help to maintain their properties and their lifestyles there, as well as their property values.”
According to Powell, the proposed layout of the site is designed to deal specifically with issues like dust, noise and light pollution. It includes enclosing the processing equipment and putting it behind the extraction area buffered by a berm, and limiting operations to daylight hours.
It’s taken the company seven years to get the project to this stage, and Powell calls that “the new normal.” He also stresses that doing things right and getting community buy-in is good business.
“In our business you only have supply if you’re a good operator. You don’t get permits if you haven’t been doing it right,” Powell said. “We have to be really good at what we do. If we make promises, we have to live up to them. We have to do proper reclamations everywhere, and we have to honour the land.”
Winn said now that he’s reviewed the application, many concerns remain outstanding when it comes to “finding the right balance between the need for the right kind of economic development that would benefit Area F and the Sunshine Coast, and the need to enhance and protect the recovering Howe Sound land and marine areas.”
Winn also said he was worried the renovation closure at the Gibsons Public Library would make it harder for some people to review the documents. A copy is now available at Gibsons Town Hall. There’s also one at the Sechelt Library, and at www.burnco
The only public information session on the Sunshine Coast side of Howe Sound is scheduled for Sept. 13 in Gibsons.