An application to conduct investigative drilling for a sand and gravel quarry in Homfray Channel near Desolation Sound Marine Provincial Park has been received by the province and is currently under review without the support of qathet Regional District.
At its regular board meeting on Thursday, January 24, the directors defeated a motion that would otherwise have informed the BC Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development that it had no objection to the application made by TargetX Exploration Ltd.
In an unweighted vote involving only four electoral areas, Patrick Brabazon, Area A director, and Sandy McCormick, Area D director, voted in favour and directors Mark Gisborne, Area B, and Clay Brander, Area C, were opposed. The site is located in Area A. In the event of a tie the motion is defeated.
Brabazon said one of the reasons he voted in favour was because extracting rock is less harmful to the environment than other practices.
“We need rock for construction for roads, et cetera, and extracting rock is one of the more benign activities in mining,” said Brabazon.
According to the ministry, there are action items on the application underway or yet to be initiated, including a stakeholder referral period which closed Friday, February 1. Comments have yet to be reviewed by the ministry, First Nation consultation has not been started and TargetX is to initiate staking and advertising in the next few weeks.
The next step in the application process is to review stakeholder referral comments, including those from the regional district.
All of the information received is considered as a whole. If the application meets all laws and bylaws, it will not necessarily be stopped but the applicant will be asked to address all of the concerns raised, according to the ministry.
Local governments are often bound by provincial decisions.
TargetX is not the first to seek approval for investigative drilling at the site. In 2003, the district passed a motion that it had no objection and in 2016, a similar motion was passed when Lehigh Hanson Materials applied to pursue exploratory drilling and then abandoned the project because of economic viability and negative public response.
At that time, Brabazon said he was happy Lehigh Hanson reneged its application.
The Save Desolation Sound Society was formed to oppose the Lehigh Hanson project, and is currently aware of the TargetX application to work the site, according to society director Russell Hollingsworth.
“We mounted a campaign and, with much assistance, the application by Lehigh Hanson Materials was eventually withdrawn,” he said. “It is no surprise to me that a new application has appeared, though it has occurred much sooner than anticipated.”
That the site is located five kilometres northeast of the marine provincial park boundary, doesn’t seem to be an issue for Brabazon.
“You can't shut own resource industries around the province just because there's a park nearby,” he said. “We've got to understand that resource extraction is a vital part of the economy of this province.”