|One of the many homesteads slated for demolition in Melancthon Township north and west of the Town of Shelburne, Wednesday, July 27, 2011. (QMI Agency/Mark O'Neill)
OWEN SOUND, ONT. - A controversial limestone "mega quarry" project proposed for southern Ontario has crumbled.
The Highland Companies announced Wednesday it had withdrawn its proposal in the face of opposition to the project, which was to be developed on farmland in Melancthon Township, about 100 km north of Toronto.
"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," John Scherer, of the Highland Companies, said in a statement.
Highland also announced John Lowndes has resigned as president and has no further involvement with the company.
Work on the controversial quarry project began in 2006, and the company submitted its application in March 2011 under the Aggregate Resources Act for approval to extract the stone.
It's a resource the province determined was in "critical need," according to the company's PR spokeswoman, Lindsay Broadhead.
But the province also required the project to be subject to a full environmental assessment -- the first time a quarry in the province has, Broadhead said.
Environmental lawyer Dianne Saxe blogged on Sept. 11, 2011, on her site Environmental Law and Litigation that environmental assessments of this sort "take a lot of time and money and are usually considered a major obstacle to the approval of a project," and are "almost never granted."
Wednesday, when told the quarry application was dead, Saxe called the news "wonderful."
"I think it's good news for the protection of the water in that area," Saxe said. "We, especially in Ontario, have tended to be too casual in protecting water because we are used to having lots of it."
Highland had proposed a mine area of 2,313 acres, or 937 hectares, among the company's 7,000-plus acres of land. The project would have extracted aggregate from the quarry for 50 to 100 years, Broadhead said.
The company, one of Ontario's largest potato producers, will instead "continue to focus on its farms and on supplying its customers with high-quality potatoes and other crops," the statement said.
Broadhead declined to answer whether the company would resubmit an application to open a quarry.
But Saxe suggested if the company holds on to all its land, rather than selling it back to farmers, it could be a sign that an application could be resubmitted in future.
Highland said in its statement it will also "discontinue its efforts to restore the rail corridor through Dufferin County." Aggregate was to be shipped by rail to the Toronto area.