Pemberton quarry blast rocks Mount Currie band office 

A rock blast gone awry sent rocks the size of softballs high above Mount Currie...

A rock blast gone awry sent rocks the size of softballs high above Mount Currie, only to come thudding to the ground near the band office and local homes on Monday.

It was the last straw for Mount Currie Chief Leonard Andrew, who only the week before had written a letter to the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District complaining about the noise and the smells from a neighbouring rock quarry.

"I’m not going to wait until somebody gets hurt and then do something about it," he said on Wednesday.

"If one of these hits one of my band members or anybody within the area it’s going to kill them, never mind just hurting them."

The blast came from a nearby piece of land just north of the Pemberton Industrial Park, where the Hazelwood Quarry operates. This land also borders a residential neighbourhood in Mount Currie.

"(The blast) did not go completely as planned and there was softball-sized rocks that landed down near the band office," said Keith Evans, operations manager of Terrane Development, the company that owns the land and operates the Hazelwood Quarry.

"(The) Ministry of Mines is investigating (and) we have an independent consultant that we’ve brought in to investigate."

The blast happened on Monday, April 26, on the same day the SLRD board members were discussing Chief Andrew’s letter at their monthly meeting.

In that letter he wrote:

"We feel as if our community is being air bombed. Why are we under siege from an obviously inappropriate industrial development next to our community?"

The quarry has been in operation since last May or June, when the blasted rock was used to build up the front lots in the Pemberton Industrial Park.

Now the rock blasting and drilling is primarily focused on the construction of a road through the property, said Evans.

He said the company operates within a mining permit, only blasting within the permitted times on weekdays between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m.

But the blasting, flying rocks and noise aren’t the only problem for nearby Mount Currie residents.

Hazelwood Quarry is just one part of the operations on the more than 100-acre piece of property. Terrane Development also operates a topsoil company, in which they use chicken manure as one of the main ingredients to make the high-grade topsoil.

"It (smells) like a chicken coop in the whole area, so we have to live with that," said Andrew.

"My people are very disappointed obviously in regards to that type of development (that) is happening almost above their heads."

Evans explained that the company takes composted wood, which is lying on the property, and combines it with other ingredients like chicken manure to make the topsoil.

"There’s huge gobs of this stuff (the composted wood) here," he said.

"We take that and we refine it by screening it and we mix it (and) well one of the ingredients is chicken manure."

Recently the company brought in a soil specialist to address the smell concerns. One of the suggestions to date has been to cover the product, which would prevent the wind carrying the smell over to neighbouring areas.

"We’re working right now very hard to deal with the smell," said Evans.

"I mean, we have to work in it. We don’t like it any better than anybody else does.

"We will do everything we can to reduce it."

The SLRD Board Chair Susan Gimse asked staff to investigate Mount Currie’s concerns as highlighted in Chief Andrew’s letter and put the issue as a top priority for regional district staff.

The regional district has the ability to regulate noise and nuisance but they may not be able to regulate any quarry activity.

"Our abilities to regulate the mining activities are very limited," said Steve Olmstead, planning manager with the SLRD.

Though the land is zoned residential, any mining activity has been grandparented into the current zoning.

Ultimately Evans said the company is building the road through the property, which could service a residential development.

"I know the owners would like to see it become a residential subdivision," he said.

"You take that swampy mess of composting wood and you get it out of the way and you put rock in it and bingo, you can put up a new car dealership or a new building supply (store) or whatever light industrial comes along."

As far as the blasting he said the company has addressed noise concerns by staying within the allowable blasting time period.

The flying rocks however are another story.

"(Last July) one little rock about the size of a marble landed down off our property, which is unacceptable as well, and there was an incident report over that," said Evans.

"There wasn’t quite the investigation that’s going to be done over (Monday’s blast). This is very serious."

The reports from Monday’s blast investigation should be available next week.

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