Sunday, July 10, 2011

Ontario's Proposed Mega Quarry: we are all responsible

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Backed by Boston-based hedge fund Baupost Group, Highland Companies application for a 2,300 acre (an area two-thirds the size of Orangeville), 200 foot (farther down than Niagara’s Horseshoe Falls), open pit limestone mine will have a catastrophic effect on local business, the environment, community and health. The quarry HIghland proposes will be the largest in North America.

The area proposed for this mega-quarry, Melancthon Township, is characterized by an abundance of wind, crop land and stone. The soil is class 1, the best in the country.

Highland started to buy farms in 2006 under the guise of Headwater Farms, run by John Lowndes, who was born just outside of Orangeville. During sales negotiations Lowndes did not mention anything about aggregates, but apparently claims that he was open open about the company plans -- if anyone asked,. Headwater paid a premium (in this region) of $8,000 an acre. Included in these land acquisitions were the township's two largest potato growers, turning Highland into Ontario’s principal grower, packer and distributor of potatoes.

The GTA and the port of Owen Sound are only 100 kilometres away in opposite directions. There is an old rail line that connects the two. Highland’s proposal to the community in 2008, stated that there would be continued farming, an exploration of additional land uses with the development of aggregates, bringing back the railway, and building wind farms. Although there were many who saw the mega-quarry coming it was a surprise to others. And now many realize they are not looking forward to the utopian, sustainable future in Highland's proposal.

John Lowndes lives in nearby Alton, and continues as sole director of Headwater Farms.

The controversy over Highland's proposal has garnered the concern and attention of many more Ontarians who believe a mega-quarry will destroy the landscape and pollute the water supply of millions of people. The mega quarry project is about money and the greed of people who seem to believe that no matter what devastation is created, that it will be okay, that someone else will fix it when it all goes awry. But more likely they are not even thinking.

Highland plans to "excavate below the water table, causing more water to be pumped out of the quarry a day than is used in all of industrial Ontario, and endangering the water table at the head of a number of rivers that provide fresh water to over 1,000,000 people." Water is the earth's most important resource. Canada has an abundance and many of us take it for granted, while others around the world are fighting for it. If Canadians are not concerned, others will eventually come to take the water we don't think much about. Already it is being sold. The beneficiaries of these sales will not be the average Canadian.

Essential farmland will be destroyed by HIghland's quarry. Air quality will be compromised. The landscape will be scarred. Where will the the principal architects of HIghland's proposal and others associated with it be? Somewhere else, somewhere they do not have to look upon, breathe, or think about the effect of their handiwork.

In a time when more and more people realize that our food (agriculture) has been compromised by factory farming, we are considering giving up precious farmland. Farmland that is a resource belonging to everyone who wants to eat food grown with respect for the land. Farmland that sustains a community, the people and families who work it and all of us who ultimately benefit from it.

Biodiversity maintenance and protection is essential for the well being of Melancthon as well as other areas of Ontario, and the people who directly rely on it. Ontarians must realize that adverse effects on this biodiversity will impact all of us. We must act to save the land, water and air. We are charged with the protection of the land; for without it we will be nothing.

For more information about the Melancthon Mega Quarry, listen and watch what some of the residents have to say at: Support stopping the mega quarry by signing the Stop the Quarry petition. To have your say go to: Government of Ontario Environmental Registry

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