After more than a year of waiting for a verdict, the provincial cabinet has given Dufferin Aggregates' Milton quarry expansion the green light. On Friday, the Province dismissed an appeal filed by two environmental groups and three residents opposed to the application, meaning the 83-hectare extension that straddles the Milton/Halton Hills border (in the Town Line/15 Sideroad area) can proceed. Barbara Halsall, past president of Protect Our Water and Environmental Resources (POWER), one of the groups that appealed the June 2005 Joint Board approval of the quarry expansion, called the cabinet decision "very disappointing." "I think it's a huge mistake," said Halsall. "This really violates Escarpment protection." "The purpose of having the Niagara Escarpment Protection and Development Act is to have a continuous natural environment, and when you bisect that, it's no longer continuous. It just boggles my mind that they don't get it." Halsall also said with cabinet's dismissal of the appeal, the provincial Liberals "violated their whole greenbelt strategy." Dufferin Aggregates general manager Bill Galloway was pleased with cabinet's decision to uphold approval of the quarry extension. "All the agencies supported the project, and it fits well with government policy. We agree with the Board's conditions, especially since most of them had already been recommended by the municipalities, the Niagara Escarpment Commission and Conservation Halton," said Galloway in a news release issued Tuesday.
The release also stated a "unique" aspect of the proposal is an agreement that Dufferin Aggregates will hand over 1,000 acres of the rehabilitated quarry and adjacent lands to public ownership. "To get the quarry after they destroyed the Escarpment is no prize," said Halsall. At press time, no representative of the Coalition on the Niagara Escarpment (CONE), the other group that filed the appeal with cabinet, was available for comment. The quarry extension is expected to add 15 years of life to the operation that employs approximately 80 people. The project has been in the works since 1996. More recently the proposal was tied up before the joint board for a 72-day public hearing-- one of the most costly hearings held in Ontario's environmental history. The boards approval came with 44 conditions Dufferin must meet including conduction annual water level monitoring and water quality sampling in certain residential wells and posting reports required by agencies on the Internet and municipal offices and libraries.