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Letters: APP Proponents Misleading Public
UPDATED 26/06/12 – COMMENTS RECEIVED – Dear Editor. Proponents of the Aggregate Pilot Project (APP) have two key talking points. One that we need gravel
and the other that the APP was designed to reduce conflicts between residents and the gravel extraction
Both of these talking points are misleading and, as we often see with commercial
advertisements, they are designed to conceal the flaws of the product they are selling.
Gravel is a useful resource; its use is not the question. The question is where should gravel be mined?
There is plenty of gravel in BC. But the industry wants the “low hanging fruit” of gravel sites. That is,
near highways and water ways, as close as possible to Vancouver, and hence near people’s homes. They
want to reduce their transportation costs and don’t care if it devalues their neighbours’ properties.
Property owners are de facto subsidizing the very industry that is wrecking their quality of life. Gravel pit
proponents don’t care about noise, traffic problems, water pollution, wildlife and fish habitat, dust and
air pollution, destruction of watersheds or the sheer ugliness of their sites. They care about money, and
making profit for their corporate headquarters. The corporation behind the proposed destruction in
Lake Errock is not even Canadian owned it is German. In political parlance the word “jobs” is often
substituted for “profit”. This is not about jobs. There is plenty of gravel elsewhere and the jobs will be
not be lost if the gravel pits are sited where they do less harm. Profit is good too, but not when it is
made by devastating communities and the physical environment, and that is what is going on here.
The APP maps represent where the low hanging fruit of gravel is in the Fraser Valley. Mining interests
have speculatively bought up large tracts of this land, regardless of how the land may be zoned. Their
plan has been to use their mighty lobbying power and the mine permitting process, which is designed
for approval, to obtain this land for their use. This special interest group’s lobbying arm is the Aggregate
Producer’s Association of BC (APABC) whose goals include “Maintaining a strong relationship with the
Ministry of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources” and “Resurrecting the Political Action Committee
and continuing to lobby government”. This is a direct quote from their own newsletter from the fall of
2009, which has the beaming face of former Minister of Mines, and Fraser Valley MLA, Randy Hawes on
the cover – which underlines the strength of this relationship.
The APP is part of this plan. The work done on the APP deliberately excluded residents who were
affected. Area C would be seriously affected by the mining allowed in the APP, and beyond the exclusion
of affected citizens, the local Fraser Valley Regional District (FVRD) representative was excluded from
these closed door meetings until near the end, and even then was not a full voting member. Lobbying
works best when lobbyists can exclude and marginalize those with countering arguments. This is what
happened in the closed door APP. So what we are seeing in the APP proposal is the result of the
lobbying efforts of a special interest group with deep pockets.
Which brings me to the second talking point; the false claim that the APP is designed to help to resolve
conflicts with affected British Columbians. If the APP ever was intended to reduce conflict, that goal was
clearly lost on the way.
If you take the time to read the APP document, it is obvious that it does not
address the issues of concern to residents of the Fraser Valley, issues including:
• Reclamation of gravel pits
• Noise – including crushing and current excessive hours of operation
• Drinking water contamination
• Destruction of water courses
• Pollution of lakes and streams
• Destruction of fish, including salmon, habitat
• Destruction of wildlife habitat
• Management of toxic substances released in the gravel extraction process
• Air pollution
• Airborne particulate matter such as toxic silica dust
• The location of crushing with its attendant pollution and noise
• The prevention of asphalt production which releases carcinogenic Toluene into the atmosphere
• Traffic issues
• Devaluation of neighbouring properties
• Erosion of quality of life of neighbours
• The introduction of regular water, air and noise testing by independent bodies
• Independent studies for mining sites
• Proper monitoring of the slopes of pits that threaten communities
In fact what the APP addresses is opening up vast tracts of the Fraser Valley to rampant gravel mining. In
the permit application process environmental studies are bought and paid for by mining interests which
is a clear case of funding bias in research. When the FVRD ordered a very small study in response to the
Debench mine application, the industry soon proved they had more lawyers, they could order up more
studies and that they could out-manoeuvre and out-spend the FVRD. The FVRD retreated.
Hopelessly biased studies as the basis for decisions in the in the permit process is bad enough. The APP
mapping was done with NO environmental studies at all. Worse yet unqualified Electoral Area directors
were asked to map their respective areas. These people are not hydrologists, they are not geologists and
their areas were not studied to determine where mining might be safe or not. To understand how
absurd this process is, one need only look at Electoral Area A where director Lloyd Foreman had the
entire region designated as green (that is a somewhat ironic name for minimally regulated mining)! No
consideration was given to where people’s homes are located; no consideration of the natural water
systems in the area; only the First Nations land was exempted. Worse yet, no-one in the APP process
lifted a finger to suggest that Mr Foreman might want to at least make an appearance of having given
the issue serious thought. But, truthfully the other maps are equally absurd, ill-conceived and not based
on any scientific evidence.
The fact is that if the APP is approved it will guarantee an escalation and intensification of the current
level of conflict. The population of the Fraser Valley is growing and will continue to grow. More and
more people will be affected should this flawed project be approved. Community values are moving
against projects such as this, ones that irreversibly destroy the very areas people are living in and that
can destroy water sources. Nobody wants to live near one of these ugly, noisy, polluting enterprises, and
nobody wants to live with the threat that one may ever be located near them. But as the APP map
shows there is nothing stopping one being started near where many people in the Fraser Valley live.
Beyond that, all Fraser Valley residents will be forced to live with the unmonitored particulate matter in
the air, and the degradation of our water and recreational areas.
Indeed the government knows this is not popular. You will notice that the original APP document was
published in March 2009, and we know now that Minister Hawes wanted it kept secret until after the
election. Why? Because it is a vote loser. It gives Mr Hawes’ pals in the aggregate industry what they
want, but the people of the Fraser Valley, his constituents, do not like it.
We understand that a new version of the flawed APP will be presented at the June 26th meeting. This is
a blatant attempt to manipulate the meeting by having those on side with the APP be informed of this
new proposal while the majority opposed to it will not have time to read and digest it. This is yet
another example of just how flawed the whole APP process is, and has been.
In the Fraser Valley there are currently permit applications pending for more gravel pits. Two of these,
the Sumas Mountain pit and the Lake Errock pit are vehemently opposed by affected and non-affected
Fraser Valley residents. If either of these permits is granted, the permit process will be revealed for the
sham it is. It would clearly mean that our governments approve of locating mines right next to people’s
homes, and they approve of the daily trucking of tons of gravel through neighbourhoods where families
live. These egregious applications need to be refused, but if they are approved the conflict will escalate
as the people of the Fraser Valley will have been shown that the lobbyists are in control and that the
people’s voice has been ignored.
Add to that the approval of the flawed APP and the conflict will just grow even more.
Worse yet, other communities in BC that deal with gravel pits in their midst are watching. This “Pilot”
project is seen by its proponents as a template for increasing gravel extraction throughout the province.
So if it is approved, other impacted BC communities will organize not only to deal with the negative
impact of local gravel pits, but also to resist the one-sided APP methodology from being imposed in their
So if politicians and their staff think that quietly pushing the APP though will put aggregate extraction
conflicts to rest, they are dead wrong. The APP resolves nothing and exacerbates the entire aggregate
mining conflict in BC.
We understand that the aggregate industry lobbyists want the payoff for their years of costly closed
door, behind the scenes, lobbying activities. The polls are clear that the prospects for the BC Liberal
Party, on whom the lobbyists’ efforts have been focused, are not looking good. The lobbyists have to get
this pushed through before next May; otherwise the whole plan will die. No other party would adopt the
despised APP as their policy and it will be a major issue in the Fraser Valley and elsewhere come the
next election. With Mr Hawes as an opposition MLA, or no longer an MLA at all, their primary booster
will be pushed to the sidelines.
But this is not a reason to push this inflammatory project any further. It is time to listen to the people of
the Fraser Valley. It requires more than just this one meeting to actually start to resolve the many
conflicts related to the vast array of issues that aggregate mining causes in communities. The conflict
will not go away if the APP is approved, it will get much worse.
Do the right thing: listen to the people of the Fraser Valley, stop the Aggregate Pilot Project now.
Lake Errock, BC