Canadian chefs, Suzuki Foundation protest limestone quarry

Oct 22, 2012 | News

An image of the proposed limestone quarry generated by The Highland Companies. COURTESY THE HIGHLAND COMPANIES

The proposed limestone quarry in Melancthon, Ontario would be bigger than Niagara Falls is deep

By Lisa Gillan

A proposed limestone quarry that would affect over 2,000 acres of Ontario cropland has been raising the ire of chefs and environmentalists across the province.

Drawing attention to the issue on Sunday were the Canadian Chefs’ Congress and the David Suzuki Foundation who teamed up to create Soupstock, a Woodbine Park event in Toronto’s Beaches.

Over 200 chefs from across Canada came to serve up soups featuring Ontario produce, in an attempt to raise awareness about the concern.

“I think it was an amazing success,” Blaine van Bruggen, an event organizer, told Humber News.

“We had 40,000 people who were really banding together to protect Ontario’s farmlands.”

The controversy has been triggered by the bid of a U.S. based firm to pursue a major quarrying initiative in farmland less than an hour north of Toronto.

“The Highland Companies, backed by a $25-billion Boston hedge fund, hopes to blast a big hole in this fertile land to get at a deposit of 400-million-year-old sedimentary rock,” said famed environmentalist David Suzuki in an article for Newfoundland newspaper, The Western Star.

According to their website, The Highland Companies is a group of Canadian and American investors who are “creating a diversified portfolio of sustainable local businesses in and beyond Melancthon Township in Dufferin County, Ontario.”

In March 2011, the group submitted a proposal to turn a chunk of Melancthon farmland into a limestone quarry.

“The application includes a license area of 937 hectares with an excavation area of 765 hectares, representing less than one per cent of the agricultural land in Dufferin County,” the group said in an information sheet about the proposed project. “Almost 85 per cent of our property in and around Melancthon will continue as active farm land over the long term.”

According to Suzuki’s article, the area in question boasts a rare type of soil known as “Honeywood silt loam,” that is about 10,000 years old and an ideal ground-source for growing potatoes.

“Beyond clearing the land and digging under the water table, the company wants to set aside the prized agricultural soil and then put it back at the bottom of the pit once the rock is removed,” wrote Suzuki.

“But cultivating crops at the bottom of a pit 60 metres below the water table is not easy. It would require about 600-million litres of water to be pumped out every day, 24 hours a day, seven days a week – forever.”

Soupstock was the second major event of its kind organized in protest of the quarry, following last year’s Foodstock.

Van Bruggen said other activities are being planned and organizers would like to continue hosting an annual event.