Attempts to address public concerns about gravel pits have been crushed.
The Ministry of Energy and Mines has informed the Regional District of North Okanagan that a proposed soil removal and deposit bylaw is unacceptable in its current form.
“The bylaw prohibits aggregate activities by placing severe volume restrictions on aggregate within known high-value aggregate resource areas,” said Chris Smith, director of the mines and mineral resources division, in a letter.
“The bylaw attempts to broadly restrict aggregate mining including areas with high aggregate potential without demonstrating how an adequate local supply of aggregate will be provided for the foreseeable future.”
Smith says that unless the bylaw is changed, the ministry will not grant approval.
“The bylaw also contains language regarding site entry that is in contradiction with section 1.3.1 of the Health, Safety and Reclamation Code for Mines,” he said, adding that RDNO should work with the ministry and gravel producers to draft a bylaw that “meets the needs of the community while preserving a healthy aggregate sector.”
RDNO proceeded with the proposed bylaw because residents expressed opposition to a planned gravel pit on Brentwood Road in the BX.
“I’m disappointed but not surprised,” said director Mike Macnabb of the ministry response.
“They have an incredible amount of control and it takes the decision-making process away from local government.”
Because RDNO can’t stop gravel extraction, Macnabb says the next step is to reword the bylaw so soil-related activities are controlled.
“We can regulate the hours of operation, noise and air quality,” he said.
Macnabb says it’s clear that the ministry is focused on gravel extraction and not as concerned about the potential impact such operations have on communities.
“They are at arm’s length and can make decisions with impunity,” he said.