Controversial mine project near Howe Sound receives federal approval

Squamish Chief

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The controversial proposal for a sand and gravel mine located in the McNab Valley on the shore of Howe Sound has received conditional federal approval.

In her Canadian Environmental Assessment approval for the Burnco Aggregate Mine Project Thursday Catherine McKenna, Minister of Environment and Climate Change, said the proposal is not likely to result in significant negative environmental effects if mitigation measures are carried out.

“Our government is committed to protecting the environment while growing our economy. This finding was based on rigorous science, extensive consultation with Indigenous groups and a diversity of Canadians, and input from experts across various disciplines,” McKenna said in a news release.

Local environmental groups have vehemently opposed the project.

My Sea to Sky called the announcement, “a bitter disappointment for My Sea to Sky’s 16,000-plus supporters and other residents of Howe Sound,” in a media release Friday afternoon.
“We had hoped that the Government would follow through on its election promise to respect community opinions. Apparently, ‘only communities can grant permissions’ is, like several other faux-promises, ‘no longer operative.’ Howe Sound communities certainly do not grant permission for this destructive project.”

For her part, Minister McKenna said the conditions placed on the approval would protect the environment.

“We are confident the mitigation measures outlined for this project will allow it to move forward in a way that protects the environment while supporting the local economy and creating good middle-class jobs,” McKenna said.

Once in operation, the mine will produce up to 1.6 million tonnes of gravel per year over a 16-year operating life.

“We are really happy about it,” Burnco’s Derek Holmes told The Chief on Friday morning, adding the company has been working toward this sand and gravel mine for almost a decade.

“A lot of work went into that project and it is nice to see a positive result at the end of it.”

The project has now been referred to Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO), for a decision regarding a Fisheries Act authorization.

DFO is charged with ensuring that mitigation measures and follow up programs are implemented.

My Sea to Sky representatives told The Chief they were hopeful the department would reject the project.

The project received Squamish Nation and provincial approval in March.

Holmes said next steps for the company are to seek regulatory permits.

If all goes according to plan, construction could begin in 2019.

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