Controversial quarry project scrapped
Published Wednesday, November 21, 2012 11:49AM EST
Last Updated Wednesday, November 21, 2012 1:29PM EST
MELANCTHON, Ont. -- Plans to build a massive quarry north of Toronto have been cancelled after the company behind the controversial project withdrew its application Wednesday, acknowledging it does not have the support of the community and the government.
Highland Companies wanted to develop Canada's second-largest quarry in Melancthon Township but the project was met with protests by local residents who said the quarry would destroy prime farmland and threaten the region's water tables.
They held large events to raise awareness and funds to fight the project, including a 119-kilometre march and a soup festival called Soupstock which featured over 200 chefs.
The company disputed the claims of the activists, saying in previous statements that drinking water would not be affected and that the 971-hectare site would be rehabilitated to agricultural use.
The provincial government had requested Highland to conduct a comprehensive environmental assessment of the site before the project could be approved.
The company admitted Wednesday that the proposal lacked support.
"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.
Sylvia Jones, the Progressive Conservative member of the legislature who represents the area, congratulated the community groups and residents who worked together to oppose the project.
"The reality is there was a lot of community resistance to this project from the beginning," Jones (Dufferin-Caledon) said in a statement Wednesday.
"There is a lesson to be learned here: local residents, community groups and municipal councils can make a difference."
NDP energy critic Peter Tabuns said the controversy stirred by the project showed the province needs to examine how it deals with the aggregate industry.
A committee looking into the issue was halted by the governing Liberals' decision to prorogue the legislature, he added.
"We can't destroy farmland for aggregate," he said.
Highland Companies consists of a group of private investors in the U.S. and Canada and is involved in farming and aggregates, including a large potato farming operation.
In scrapping the quarry, Highland also said that its president has resigned and "has no further involvement with the company."