Central Saanich Mayor Ryan Windsor says two proposed resource projects near Bamberton run counter to the interests of local efforts to preserve and restore the Saanich Inlet.
“We take this issue very seriously,” he said in an interview with Black Press Media after council had signalled its concerns.
Council Monday unanimously passed a motion that asked the provincial ministry responsible for mines to delay the approval of any decisions concerning mining activities around Bamberton. The motion also called for additional public consultations as well as study and mitigation of potential longer-term environmental impacts prior to issuance of any permits.
Malahat Investment Corporation submitted plans for two projects near Bamberton. The first proposed project is a foreshore expansion, which critics say could lead to the shipment and storage of contaminated soils through an area port. The second proposed project would be the expansion of an existing rock quarry, which critics say could almost double the current annual production of 250,000 tons.
The provincial government is currently reviewing both projects, which have drawn criticism from residents on the Saanich Peninsula because of their potential environmental effects on the Saanich Inlet.
Windsor said the municipality has been trying to improve the ecology of the Saanich Inlet with Tsartlip First Nations.
While Windsor acknowledged the role of the provincial government in approving the two projects on the non-Peninsula side of the Saanich Inlet and its already existing environmental challenges, both projects risk worsening the inlet’s ecology.
Critics have also accused Malahat Investment Corporation of following the bare minimums in terms of public process, and Windsor shared those criticisms.
Windsor said the municipality was aware of the projects through a general notification process. “But the problem was, it had a Nov. 15 deadline, which is problematic from our perspective. We had our inaugural meeting on Nov. 7, so we really did not have a council (meeting) prior to that (deadline).”
Since the inaugural meeting on Nov. 7 was ceremonial, council could only really consider the issue on Nov. 14, one day before the deadline.
“It’s not great timing,” he said.
Windsor later spoke of a “pretty substantial” failure of communication by both the provincial government and Malahat Investment Corporation in terms of informing the public.
“There could be a lot more opportunity,” he said, adding that the municipality has made an effort to expand public outreach. Windsor said the same should have been done in this case. “You build public confidence by the public knowing what their elected officials, what their government, is doing.”
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