Mega-quarry proposal pulled, called citizens’ win

Nov 22, 2012 | News

By Helen Surgenor

Urbanites became involved in the protest against the quarry, following a series of culinary protests. COURTESY RENEE S. FLICKR

The David Suzuki Foundation is crediting the retraction of a mega-quarry proposal to highly visible and vocal public outcry.

“The reality is that we did not have a regulatory system that would have effectively stopped this project,” Dr. Faisal Moola, Ontario director general for the foundation, told Humber News.

The Highland Companies investment group shocked many with a Wednesday announcement that it would be withdrawing its proposal to operate what would be Canada’s largest open-pit mine.

The aggregate quarry was to be built amongst the fertile farmlands of Melancthon, 30 minutes north of Orangeville, Ont. raising the ire of farmers and chefs in North Dufferin County.

Concerned residents highlighted the land’s agricultural value, drawing massive support from chefs and restaurants across the country, and Toronto’s culinary connoisseurs in the process.

A protest organized by the Canadian Chefs’ Congress and the David Suzuki Foundation, dubbed Soupstock, drew a crowd of more than 40,000 to Woodbine Park at the end of October.

Opponents “wrote letters to their politicians, they came out to rallies, they went to fundraisers and they sent a very, very clear message,” Moola said.

“Despite the fact that the provincial government did announce an environmental assessment process, we did not have real political leadership,” Moola said.

“In that vacuum of regulatory support, of political leadership, the people of Ontario stepped up.”

LISTEN: Moola on why a response is still needed from government

Mayor Bill Hill of Melancthon Township said in an interview that he didn’t expect the private investment group—backed by the Boston-based Baupost hedge fund—to withdraw its application.

Highland also announced that it was abandoning plans to restore a rail corridor through Dufferin County and its president, John Lowndes, was resigning from the company.

“While we believe that the quarry would have brought significant economic benefit to Melancthon Township and served Ontario’s well-documented need for aggregate, we acknowledge that the application does not have sufficient support from the community and government to justify proceeding with the approval process,” said one of Highland’s principles, John Scherer in a press release.

The Highland Companies will continue to keep the 6,000 acres of land it owns for farming use, a spokesperson confirmed to Humber News, saying it has just started planting for next season.