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B.C. cabinet lifts agricultural land rules to mine gravel for Site C dam

Mine, road sites not farmed, to be returned to ALR by 2026
Construction continues on the Site C dam on the Peace River, December 2021. (B.C. Hydro photo)

The B.C. government has ordered temporary removal of 55 hectares from the Agricultural Land Reserve to mine and transport a specific type of gravel needed to complete B.C. Hydro’s Site C dam on the Peace River.

A cabinet order issued Feb. 1 requires four sites near the Pine River and the CN Rail line to be restored and returned to the ALR by the end of 2025, in consultation with the 11 Indigenous groups with land rights under Treaty 8, signed in 1899. The quarry site is Crown land located 8.5 km east of the dam site, and the additional “shell” material for the earth-filled dam is to be trucked to the site.

The energy and mines ministry issued a statement to Black Press Media noting that B.C. Hydro is authorized under its environmental assessment certificate to develop “Area E” and upgrade a haul route known as the Ice Bridge Road. Area E is the quarry site and the other three excluded areas are for the road.

The quarry and road are near the Septimus Siding of the CP Rail line, but the ministry says available rail car capacity would only allow movement of 17 per cent of the material.

The certificate estimates that the dam requires 12 million cubic metres of granular material, with up to one million of that expected to come from Area E. The remainder is being sourced within the dam construction site, which has used a fixed conveyor system to move material for the earth works.

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“The quarry area will be reclaimed in accordance with the terms of B.C. Hydro’s Mines Act permit before the temporary exclusion expires,” the ministry said Feb. 3. “As a condition of the order temporarily excluding the lands from the ALR, B.C. Hydro will develop a reclamation plan for the Area E quarry in consultation and cooperation with Treaty 8 First Nations.”

Area E has been tenured as a quarry since the 1960s and there is currently no agricultural activity on it, nor evidence of cultivation in the past 50 years, the ministry said.

Treaty 8 covers a vast region of northern B.C. east of the Rocky Mountain, territory of the Blueberry River, Dene Tha’, Doig River, Duncan’s, Fort Nelson, Halfway River, Horse Lake, McLeod Lake, Prophet River, Saulteau and West Moberly First Nations.


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