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We have reached an important milestone in our opposition to the proposed massive open pit mine and its inevitable intrusion into our lives. And while it is an important milestone, it needs to be put in context because it is only the first regulatory decision we have experienced thus far. We need to remember that it is not the only or the final decision and it does not mean, in any way, that the quarry is approved or that any level of government endorses the proposed quarry.

The Ontario Ministry of the Environment (MOE) issued a final Permit to Take Water (PTTW) to St Marys CBM on July 8, 2008 to allow a series of phased tests relating to the proposed Flamborough quarry. The tests are being allowed for two purposes:

  1. To allow the company to pump large volumes of water out of the ground in order to better understand the impact the proposed quarry excavation might have on the watershed and
  2. To test its unproven and theoretical groundwater recirculation system being proposed to mitigate those unacceptable negative impacts.

Lawyers for our communities are evaluating our legal options. Our experts believe that there are legitimate policy and scientific questions still outstanding that should be answered before testing is permitted to begin.

FORCE today signalled its intention to seek leave to appeal the permit to the Ontario Environmental Review Tribunal in order to put St Marys and its consultants on notice that they should not begin the testing until these potential appeal matters are decided. If St Marys takes any actions, the company would prejudice any possible legal application. Such actions would also not respect our communities' right to decide its response and would further demonstrate that St Marys is not the good neighbour it claims to be.

Our communities' ability to challenge the permit has a hurdle. The permit has been issued for less than one year. The posting with the permit on the Environmental Bill of Rights Registry states that because the permit is being issued for less than one year, there is no right of appeal. St Marys original application asked for a permit for 5 weeks or 35 days. MOE has issued the permit for 356 days. What is the difference between 356 days and 365 days? The potential environmental impact of the test phases and the flawed test design remain the same. The only difference caused by the 9 days is that our communities may be denied environmental justice and the democratic right to appeal. This is unacceptable. The lawyers for our communities will give us their best advice on whether and how to proceed. Our communities have 15 days from the day MOE issued the permit to make our final decision.

As disappointing as the decision to issue the PTTW may be to those of us who know that this proposed quarry does not belong in our communities since we understand the significance of its potential impacts, we should not be surprised that a permit has been issued and that testing has been allowed. As communities, we have made submissions saying that we expect that any mitigation system would be tested and proven before final decisions are made about the proposed development. That just makes sense. What we have done though is question why these test are being considered now when source water protection planning has just started; why are we being used as "lab rats" for a theoretical mitigation system with no proven track record in a similar setting and no long term performance data; and how MOE can accept a test design which emphasizes modelling rather than measured results from actual full scale field tests. What we can be pleased with is that the PTTW that has been issued is much more restrictive and has many more safeguards than it would have had without our efforts. We did not achieve everything that we asked for but we have secured important improvements and we have educated more officials. We need to continue to make professional and substantive representations to decision-makers at every opportunity in order to continue to affect changes in all different stages of the application review process.

We also need to remember that the review process for proposed quarry developments is usually very long - often more than ten years. Along the way, we will have "wins", "losses", and "draws" at different stages of our battle. Every day that there is no quarry approved and no quarry operating in our communities is also our success - it means our communities remain how we know them and love them. Our hard work in opposition to this outrageous proposed development will continue to take us up and down on the emotional rollercoaster. What is important is that we continue to turn our emotions into resolve, and our resolve into action, and that we continue to act together.



Graham Flint


Together We Will Succeed!