Dufferin Aggregates will not make a decision on whether to expand the Acton Quarry until least the fall. Andrea Bourrie, Dufferin Aggregates property and resources manager, told Halton Hills council at a recent meeting that a spring decision has been postponed until studies are completed this spring and summer to ensure that the proposal is technically sound. "I made a commitment that Dufferin will not submit an application until we are sure of our business decision and we are sure that the application that is going to be submitted is comprehensive and as technically sound as it could be. We're not there yet, and so you won't see an application until we're ready," Bourrie said. While no application has yet been filed to expand the quarry by about 500 acres, the company has been working with Halton Region and other agencies in a JART (Joint Agency Review Team) pre-consultation process since June 2006. Last month, Bourrie said the current quarry-- about 15 million tonnes-- would be mined out in five to six years. This year the plan is to finish quarrying the remaining corner of Phase 2, but the majority of the work will be done in Phase 3, mining in a westerly direction. Dufferin is in the process of setting up an After Use Vision Advisory Committee to develop options for the Phases 1-3 of the quarry after the mining is completed including trails, reforestation or public use. The committee
work begins in May. Dufferin is inviting one town councillor, one staff member plus three council-appointed citizens, plus another seven citizens appointed by Dufferin to participate.
We believe there is an opportunity to do a lot more than what is required of us by the Ministry of Natural Resources on the approved site plan. We are very interested in engaging the Town of Halton Hills and the community's residents. There is an opportunity for the Acton Quarry to be quite a spectacular after use," said Bourrie.
A cynical Halton Hills Mayor Rick Bonnette, who has seen the ownership of the quarry change many times, wondered what assurance the Town has that Dufferin will follow through on its rehabilitation plans. "We do what we say we'll do," answered Bourrie bluntly, noting that the company is publicly traded with audited financial statements, including a trust fund to rehabilitate the quarry to the standards required.
The approved Ministry of Natural Resources after use site plan calls for "simple, dry land form with gentle side slopes and grassed/treed areas". To date almost 30 hectares have been rehabilitated and since Dufferin took ownership in 2001, 21,500 native trees have been planted, two quarry walls have been sloped 3:1 (2:1 is required) and four hectares of seep recharge area has been installed. The earliest that the public could possibly use one portion would be in about five years.
As part of its annual Earth Week celebrations Dufferin has scheduled a Tree Planting Day at the quarry on Saturday, April 21. Activities get under way at 8:30 a.m. with a barbecue lunch at 11 a.m. Councillors took the opportunity to question Bourrie on a number of nagging issues such as "hours of operation and blasting. Bourrie says quarry processing begins at 5:45 a.m. and ends 11:30 p.m. to accommodate the shipping times of 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. While she will investigate ways to ease the impact of the early and late times on neighbours, Bourrie pointed out the quarry does have an operating licence for 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The operating hours were set to meet the required aggregate demand and after consulting with the quarry's neighbours. The quarry's blasting expert is also looking at new techniques in blast patterns and frequency, again to alleviate resident impact, noting that a change in previous years brought some success.
Protect Our Water and Environmental Resources (POWER) past president Barbara Halsall commented, while the JART process began about a year ago, council and residents didn't learn of the proposal until February. Regional Councillor Jane Fogal agreed with Halsall's concerns and as a result, a report on a recent regional committee agency addressed this "flaw in the system". Effective immediately regional council will be informed when staff is in a pre-consultation stage with JART proposals.