Potatoes or rocks: an urgent question north of Toronto

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.

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Re: Potatoes or rocks: an URGENT question north of Toronto is an understatement even the formatting! There are so many issues raised here and all across Ontario (and Canada for that matter too!).
We are far enough from our food sources without losing more farmland to ‘money’ aka houses, condos, business (ex. big box plazas), foreign investments, etc.
We have already destroyed massive amounts of clean drinking water, sources of clean water, and the resources to filter and replenish some of the destruction of the water.
The loss of flora and fauna is irreplaceable as is the loss of the nature beauty of the landscape.
The amount of pollution we create now and the problems associated with pollution are already at disastrous levels. This quarry will exponentially increase pollution in so many different ways.
The list goes on and on and can be applied to so many different locations – and not just in relation to quarries.
People need to realize what is happening to our food and water sources and natural resources and starting acting to ensure these resources are going to be around for our future.

Thank you for bringing knowledge of the proposed mega-quarry to the Beaches. It is encouraging that people will see the implications of such a large proposal and the impact on Ontario. The source water from Melancthon runs south to Lake Erie, west to Lake Huron and north/east to Georgian Bay. Ontario taxpayers will pay for this proposal in one way or another — higher prices for limestone or fresh food & water/food security. It is good that as many Ontarians as possible be involved in the decision-making.

If I have a choice, I want to buy as many fruits and vegetables from Ontario as I possibly can. The soil in Melancthon County is some of the richest in all of Canada.

We are not making any new lakes and rivers. We must be responsible to protect the freshwater that we have. It is my understanding that this quarry will destroy fish habitat (salmon spawning) and wildlife habitat as well.

Another big concern is that the toxic dust from the explosives (if mine were to go ahead) will blow in the wind and destroy crops in its path, all the way to Lake Simcoe.
(not to mention polluting the air we breathe)

The caring people in this Province will do everything in our power to ensure this mine does not go through.

As I am hearing regularly and believe: “we are only visitors…we must think of the generations to come…we must be stewards of our precious farmland and freshwater.”

Thank you to Matthew Kelway and Beach Metro News for bringing attention to this issue. Having almost completed a University of Guelph course in sustainable agriculture, I recently read about the mega-quarry. It is so important that everyone is aware of this issue and makes their voices heard as soon as possible.

Issues over the projected Melancthon mega-quarry have raised some much needed public awareness. The complications over water are mainly due to its “rooftop of Ontario” location.

The Melancthon mega-quarry is an ambitious plan that is likely to dry out, literally. Its high elevation location, feeding a number of rivers which many people rely on for drinking water, requires proper water discharge rates, out of the 200 foot below water table site, to sustain natural demands. Other quarries in the area currently have water discharge issues on a regular basis, but that wouldn’t happen at the incredible Melancthon mega-quarry, would it?

If, and I say if, operations can maintain these water discharge rates, great; but let us be realistic, good luck mega-quarry.

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