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Appeals court rules against Highlands in quarry case

District has fought to stop work on site since 2016
O.K. Industries will be allowed to continue working at the Highlands quarry after the B.C. Court of Appeals decision. (Courtesy of District of Highlands)

The courts have again backed O.K. Industries versus the District of Highlands, which had filed an appeal in hopes of reinstating a cease work order at the company’s quarry.

The B.C. Court of Appeals upheld the B.C. Supreme Court’s earlier decision, rejecting the district’s appeal that the Supreme Court erred in its ruling on who had jurisdiction over the land.

“While I would not necessarily endorse the broad statements of ‘exclusive jurisdiction’ … I agree with the Court’s interpretation of the relevant legislation and its conclusion that a municipal government is not empowered to regulate ‘mines,’ which include quarries, under its zoning power,” B.C. Appeals Court Justice Barbara Fisher wrote in her remarks.

Highlands had been appealing the decision on two main grounds, that the province does not have exclusive jurisdiction when it comes to governing mining operations in B.C., and that the quarry operation did not meet the definition of a mine, and thus didn’t fall under provincial authority.

The decision means the quarry will be allowed to continue to operate under a permit granted by the province under the Mines Act. That is the case until mining operations stop, at which point the district will have jurisdiction as clean-up operations commence.

The appeals process has been a long fight for the district.

O.K. Industries purchased the 65-acre property from the province in 2015. In late 2016, Highlands blocked the company’s rezoning application to use the land for industrial purposes. The company then applied to the province for a Mines Act permit in 2017, which was granted in March, 2020.

Work started on Oct. 1 that year when the company began by cutting down trees on the property. Two days later, a bylaw officer arrived on site to issue the paving contractor a cease work order on the basis it hadn’t acquired a valid tree cutting permit, contrary to the municipal tree management bylaw.

Highlands also cited a number of other bylaws O.K. Industries’ work could violate. The company filed a petition for review a week later.

The full decision can be read here.

READ MORE: BC Supreme Court rules Highlands quarry work can continue


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