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Enhanced permitting review, cumulative effects analysis establish strong regulatory environment for proposed quarry expansion

Press Release

June 27, 2023

VICTORIA – The proposed expansion of the Bamberton quarry near Mill Bay will undergo an enhanced review through the Mines Act permitting process, not an environmental assessment by the B.C. Environmental Assessment Office (EAO).

George Heyman, Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy, reviewed submissions received from the Saanich Inlet Protection Society, First Nations and the public during the EAO’s review of the request to designate the expansion as a reviewable project under the Environmental Assessment Act, along with the analysis by EAO officials. He also considered a previous 1996 Ministry of Environment report on cumulative effects on the Saanich Inlet.

Following the EAO’s review, Heyman participated in discussions with the ministries of Energy, Mines and Low Carbon Innovation (EMLI) and Water, Land and Resource Stewardship (WLRS) and the EAO to determine whether an enhanced permitting process conducted by EMLI in collaboration with the EAO, and a separate cumulative effects analysis within the Saanich Inlet by WLRS, could address the concerns raised by local residents and First Nations effectively, fairly and expeditiously.

As a result of discussions with the EAO and ministers, and respecting issues brought forward by the Saanich Inlet Protection Society, First Nations and the public during the EAO review, EMLI developed an enhanced permit review process for the project. The enhanced permit process will include ongoing consultation with the EAO, technical review by geotechnical, geoscience and reclamation specialists, and further engagement with First Nations and the public.

Heyman determined that an environmental assessment by the EAO will not be required for the project proposed by Malahat Investment Corporation. In making the decision, he highlighted that the concerns raised about risks to the sensitive and unique Saanich Inlet ecosystem will be addressed by the enhanced permit amendment review process, coupled with the cumulative effects analysis to be developed in consultation with First Nations and the EAO.

Heyman has recommended to the EMLI statutory decision-maker that if the quarry expansion is approved, annual reporting on environmental monitoring should be required, with review by an environmental review committee to ensure any mitigation measures imposed are effective, and to recommend permit amendments, if necessary. In addition, the minister recommended this ongoing monitoring include consideration of any findings from the cumulative-effects analysis.

The EAO determined that the renewal of a foreshore lease for a dock and a permit for a clean fill site on the property are not eligible for an environmental assessment because both have been in operation for many years. Heyman has recommended that the Ministry of Forests consult with the EAO to ensure all relevant issues, concerns and information gathered during the EAO’s review are considered when completing the review of the foreshore lease-renewal application.

The EAO heard from the Saanich Inlet Protection Society, First Nations, Malahat Investment Corporation, Cowichan Valley Regional District, other government agencies and the public during its review. This input informed a report for the minister that examined a wide range of considerations about whether or not the project should undergo an environmental assessment.

Tsartlip First Nation and Tsawout First Nation supported designating the project as reviewable, asserting that a full environmental assessment would better ensure their Douglas Treaty rights are protected. Malahat Nation, which owns Malahat Investment Corporation, did not support designating the project as reviewable.

To address the high level of public interest in the project, the EAO held a public-comment period, which was extended twice and ran from Jan. 17 to Feb. 21, 2023. The EAO received more than 500 comments. About 200 people attended an online public information session on Feb. 2, 2023.

The EAO’s review of the application to designate the Bamberton Quarry expansion as reviewable exceeded the 30-day timeline, and an extension of 237 days was granted.

Reviewable projects require an environmental assessment by the EAO, and an environmental assessment certificate, to be approved by the Province and to move forward to permitting decisions.

Learn More:

For a Ministry of Energy, Mines and Low Carbon Innovation factsheet on enhanced Mines Act review process for Bamberton quarry expansion, visit: http://news.gov.bc.ca/factsheets/bamberton-quarry-expansion-receives-enhanced-mines-act-review

Minister’s reasons for decision are posted here:
https://www.projects.eao.gov.bc.ca/api/public/document/649b2c7c05009500224b7683/download/Bamberton%20Reasons%20for%20Decision%20-%20FINAL%20SIGNED.pdf

All documentation ministers considered in making their decision is available on the EAO’s website: https://www.projects.eao.gov.bc.ca/p/63654a5d99a2870022a0621b/documents

For more information on the environmental assessment process, visit: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/environment/natural-resource-stewardship/environmental-assessments

A backgrounder follows.

Contact:

Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy
Media Relations
250 953-3834


BACKGROUNDER

Application to designate Bamberton projects as reviewable under Environmental Assessment Act

  • Under the Environmental Assessment Act, any group or person can apply to have a project designated as reviewable. Reviewable projects require an environmental assessment by the Environmental Assessment Office (EAO), and an environmental assessment certificate, to move forward.
  • The EAO thoroughly assesses each request to recommend to the Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy whether or not a project should require an environmental assessment.
  • Saanich Inlet Protection Society asked the EAO on Nov. 2, 2022, to require an environmental assessment for the Bamberton quarry expansion and related activities, which do not meet the thresholds to automatically require an EAO assessment.
  • The Reviewable Projects Regulation of the Environmental Assessment Act governs whether a modification to an existing quarry is automatically subject to an environmental assessment. To trigger an automatic review, a project must meet both of the following criteria: increase of 50% or greater to the previously permitted area (the area of land that can be disturbed); and an annual production rate exceeding 250,000 tonnes.
  • Malahat Investment Corporation applied to the Ministry of Energy, Mines and Low-Carbon Innovation in May 2019 to expand the existing quarry. The application reviewed by the EAO in its review proposed to increase production capacity to 479,000 tonnes per year – up from 240,000 (a 99.6% increase) – and expand the mine permit area from 39.3 hectares to 45.7 hectares (a 16% increase).
  • The proponent had also applied to the Ministry of Forests to renew the 30-year foreshore lease for barging activities at the site, which expired in 2019 and has been renewed month-to-month since. The review of the application under the Land Act has been on hold during the EAO’s review.
  • The Cowichan Valley Regional District issued Malahat Investment Corporation a permit in October 2020 authorizing the continued operation of a clean-fill site adjacent to the quarry. The permit allows storage of soil that meets the standards for residential developments.

Contact:

Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy
Media Relations
250 953-3834

Connect with the Province of B.C. at: news.gov.bc.ca/connect

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