Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Dufferin County – Jobs and Destruction

Dufferin County is where I grew up. It is located almost a one hour drive north of Toronto. Many small rural communities dot the landscapes and many are known for their local artisans and microbreweries. Ummmmmmm… beer!

The Niagara Escarpment runs through this region. The Niagara Escarpment was formed over 10, 000 years ago during the time when the last Ice Age’s glaciers were retreating. Because of this the landscape is home to many hills, valleys and rivers. In fact, this region is where the springs (or headwaters) are found for most of the rivers that supply water to all the cities of the south – Brampton, Toronto, Etobicoke, Mississauga and others.

The sediments left behind – from the glaciers – have made this area perfect for many varieties of farming. The most common produce being the potato, with a history that dates back hundreds of years. Over ¼ of all the potatoes produced in Ontario come from this region! That’s a whole lot!!

Naturalist throng to this area to enjoy the many varieties of landscapes and wildlife that captivate our senses. The views and vistas are expansive and filled with the brightest colours during the Autumn season. My old stomping grounds have inspired several of my own art creations.

Of course, it is nice to see this ‘big sky’ country, but so many treasures can also be found deep within the wooded areas, too!

There is no other region like this anywhere else in Ontario and I always look forward to my visits there, to see family and friends!!!!!

Even the cold harsh winters fill the mind with warm thoughts of inspiration as we make our way through the hills of frost to the many ski resorts in the area.

But, lately, things have begun to change. If you listen really closely you will notice that the whispering winds have grown silent, the singing leaves have become a stifled murmur and in the distance you can hear the sounds of chainsaws and engines! If you listen past these industrial rumblings you may also hear…

… the marching of feet!

For five days these feet marched! From Queen’s Park in downtown Toronto, hundreds of farmers, environmentalists, artists, teachers and other community members marched in protest of North America’s second largest open-pit mine development plans!!

The Highland Companies, which is backed by a Boston based hedge fund Baupost Group, proposes to dig a ‘Mega-Quarry’! Their goal is to create a mine 1/3 the size of Toronto!!

These sneaky and deceptive Industrialists have been planning this for quite a while. The Highland Cos. first showed itself in Melancthon Township – in Dufferin County – in 2006, under the guise of Headwater Farms. Hmmmm… ‘Headwaters’… where have I heard that before? Oh yeah! In the second paragraph of this story, when I mentioned that many rivers spring out of the ground in this region feeding millions of people!

So… Highland Cos. tells local farmers that they want to produce potatoes and many struggling farmers are dazzled by the extra bonuses that are found in the sales contracts and think that this is a good thing – keeping the land producing food and they make a happy dollar. In a very short period of time Highland became the largest producer, packer and distributor of potatoes in Ontario. Impressive!

I went for a visit to Highland Cos. website and checked out their ‘Corporate Overview’. In it I read, “Today, we are the largest landowner, taxpayer, employer and private sector donor in the Township, providing about 20% of the property tax revenue and 24% of the jobs within Melancthon. In addition, we are actively pursuing an aggregate project within Melancthon Township.” I liked how they slipped in that last seemingly innocent sentence – NOT!!!

Highland Cos. spent a lot of money and 5 years to have 20 consulting companies draft their 3, 100 page proposal for re-zoning of the farmlands that they now own. The public was given 45 days to respond!

So what’s the big deal? Why all the fuss? Think about all the jobs that this quarry will create!

First – let’s look at the impact on the landscapes…

This is an open-pit mine! Effective, but not very pretty to look at.

Well, whatever eh! Think about all the jobs that this quarry will create!

Boy! This open-pit mine sure looks deep! This is where Highland Cos. proposal begins to get very scary…

The proposed mine will carve a moon-like crater into the Earth that will reach depths of over 200 feet below the water table. It will be deeper than Niagara Falls is high. It is the fact that this quarry will be below the water table that is important. This fact means that pollutants will have direct access to this water – and don’t forget that 1 million people depend on this water, daily.

Okay – this doesn’t look so good anymore… but what’s a little pollution when our big cities have so many water filtering centres?

To mine the limestone from this land, 20 tonnes of explosives, daily, will be used. Wow! Just think of all the jobs that will be created in this other industry, all of sudden. This is great for the economy. Well… out of these 20 tonnes, about ¼ tonne of explosive will not detonate and this is the waste that will pollute the rivers – that’s close to 100 tonnes of pollutants each year!

Excessive amounts of ‘heavy metals’ will also be released into these headwaters polluting rivers such as the Grand, Nottawasaga, Credit, Humber, Saugeen and Beaver. Ahh – I see that some of you recognize the names of at least one of these rivers – brings it all home eh! Unfortunately I don’t believe that heavy metals filters are found in the water filtration systems in Toronto.

I think that this water safety issue is my greatest concern. So many people will be affected!

To continue with more talk about water…

Okay – use your imagination and picture the province of Ontario in your mind. Now picture every single person in Ontario and imagine the water that they use every single day – drinking, washing, using the toilet and watering lawns. Now think about how much water is used by farmers, daily – for livestock, for cleaning, for irrigation. How much water is used by every single industry in Ontario, daily? Now, take that massively humungous number and know (not imagine) that this one quarry will need to use ¼ of Ontario’s present daily consumption of water, every day itself! Yup! That’s about 600 000 000 litres of water every day!

The sediments that are created during the mining process need 3 days to settle to reduce the amount of pollution that will be released into the rivers named above. To do this 600 million litres of water a day will be stored for 3 days – meaning that a total of 1.8 billion litres of water will be in use at this quarry at any given time!!!!

You’d think that this would be impossible, but Highland Cos. assures us (assures???) that they do have this technology. I just hope that nothing ever goes wrong. Have you ever seen anything man-made that has been flawless from its first inception? Yeah – me neither!!!!

Okay… now it’s time to talk about traffic…

This is a dump truck.

This is nine dump trucks.

This is eighty-one dump trucks!

Highland Cos. limestone quarry will see the addition of 400 dump trucks to local road systems every single hour! There is so much profit to me made in this quarry that Highland Cos. has already stipulated in its proposal that it will finance road improvements throughout the area if their actions result in road deterioration. Yup! They’ve already planned for that. Now – can you imagine this company trying to make good on these words when the time comes? I’m sure that this issue will be another battle that will take years to asses and decide on… but what about the people living in this area with broken roads while these new battles rage in our courts?!!!

If you were to buy a two-acre lot in Melancthon Township and wanted to build a house for your family, you would be required to have an environmental assessment.

Under Ontario law, an environmental assessment is not required for a quarry!

Wildlife! I haven’t even touched on the subject about endangered species significant to this area yet. Instead, I’ll let members of the The David Suzuki Foundation do that for me –


This is a link to a very insightful radio interview and you will hear from a local farmer who will be affected -


I found this video on youtube -

And this video is full of facts and consequences -

I urge each one of you reading this – and I know that many readers are from different countries around the world – to follow this link -
http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/megaquarry/ - to sign the online petition to STOP the mega-quarry!

So, signing a petition is rather easy and takes but a few seconds. I wonder how many of you will feel strongly enough about this issue to sit at a table with pen and paper, envelope and stamp to write a letter of opposition to:

Ministry of Natural Resources
2284 Nursery Road
Midhurst, Ontario
L0L 1 X0


The Highland Companies
Box 377
Shelburne, ON
L0N 1S0

I want to thank you for your interest and thank you for your support!

I think that the future generations of potato farmers would want to thank you too, if they could, but they haven’t yet been born.


PS - A protest rally is schedule to take place in Orangeville on Sunday July 17 at 10:00am. Here is a link to find info about this event -


Maybe I'll see some of my old school mates there! We'll do lunch afterwards!!!


Kishésh 7ameim said...

Great article. Thank you.

Kishésh 7ameim said...

My first comment is so generic it looks like spam. But really a good illustrated post on this uncalled for project. I live in Toronto and I'm saddened that no one here seems to know about this. I feel like we Torontonians can do so much but we just don't care. If we did half as much as the local population is doing I believe we can stop this.

Jim said...

Thanks for the birthday present - your comments!!! Makes me glad to see that this blog is getting around to raise awareness.
Note - Orangeville protest is rescheduled until Sunday, July 17th 2011 - 10am!!!!