I got in the van and headed north last week to Melancthon Township. It’s not far north, but just – and only just – far enough to escape the sprawl of our unplanned city. As per arrangements, I met up with Carl Cosack at Pete’s Donuts at the corner of highways 89 and 10.
Carl is a local rancher, a character and an activist. He’s President of the North Dufferin Agricultural and Community Taskforce – NDACT for short – the citizen group fighting the good fight against the Melancthon mega-quarry. Over coffee and a most excellent old-fashioned plain, Carl laid out the history, the campaign against and the possible futures of the fight against the mega-quarry.
The story begins in 2006 with a company backed by a Boston-based hedge fund, buying out farms and farmers, amassing more than 7,500 acres of incredibly fertile soil that borders the Niagara Escarpment, a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. This was supposedly about the business of growing potatoes.
In time, however, it emerged that the play was, really, all about the rock beneath the surface. The company’s application to the Ministry of the Environment lays out the plan to build North America’s second largest quarry – a hole 200 feet below the water table, covering over 2,300 acres. To put that into context, that’s a hole that covers this paper’s entire distribution area, deep enough to bury a building over 20 storeys high. Alarmingly, this land currently produces half of the potatoes consumed in the GTA.
After coffee and donuts, we went for a drive around the 30 km perimeter of the quarry site to get a feel for the lay of the land. We stop and get out to walk along the bank of the Pine River. It is idyllic. Carl describes the proposed site of the quarry as “the rooftop of Ontario” – rubbing my bald head to demonstrate his point. Water is everywhere near the surface in this part of the country and from this point water flows in all directions into five river systems providing drinking water for over one million of us.
Water is central to both the proposal, the ongoing Environmental Asessment and the fight against it. With so much water so close to the surface, the quarry operation will require 600 million litres of water – equivalent to 25 percent of the water consumed by Ontarians everyday – to be pumped out of the quarry and back into the river systems every single day. Trucks, too, are an issue. The mining of this quarry – North America’s second largest – will have more than 7,200 trucks per day travelling to and from the site.
The mega-quarry brings into sharp relief the issue of sustainable development. Very simply, we are left to choose between rocks or potatoes coming into our city from our rural surroundings. That tells us that the development of our city needs to occur in a different way.
But, for now, the mega-quarry needs to be stopped – right away! Please join me and some special guests for a discussion about the mega-quarry at Community Centre 55 on Sunday, March 18th at 1pm. Check my website at matthewkellway.ndp.ca or visit my facebook page for details.