Letters to the Editor

Marble in OMYA’s new quarry may be worth billions

Lanark Era, Lanark, Ont., December 14, 2004

OMYA Canada Inc. has applied to the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources for a license to add about 90 acres the site of its licensed quarry near Highway 511 in Lanark Highlands.

Documents filed by OMYA show that its marble deposits at Tatlock extend as much as 600 feet below ground level. The planned expansion could give OMYA access to marble deposits worth billions of dollars.
The project is one of a number of recent developments involving OMYA that affect Lanark Highlands and Lanark village and that could provide millions of dollars in royalties or other revenues to local governments in Lanark. These developments include:

- Leona Dombrowsky, the provincial Minister of the Environment, has refused to allow a ‘bump-up’ that would trigger a second environmental review of the county’s plans to reroute County Road 9 so OMYA can access its expanded quarry site. Ths means that the road project can now go forward once county and OMYA reach agreement over some details, including a sharing of costs and possibly of revenues.

- As reported in the Era, Lanark Highlands council has rejected the preferred route for an Alternative Truck Route around Lanark village that consultants for the county recommended in September. This route ran east from Highway 511 just north of Maple Grove school, crossed the Clyde River and then turned south along County Road 12 to rejoin 511 south of the village. Construction would not begin until production at OMYA’s quarry reached double its current level of.a million tons per year.

- Last week the county responded by asking the township to propose what ‘next steps’ should be taken to select an acceptable route. Both the county and Lanark Highlands councils are to consider the truck route issue again during this week..

From my review, there are no major environmental issues involved in the proposed quarry expansion. Groundwater levels will be affected moderately, and only in the immediate area of the quarry. OMYA plans to move stored calcium carbonate from the south of County Road 9 to a site north of the existing quarry. The company will require provincial permits to pump rain, snow, and groundwater from the expanded quarry into Murray Lake and the Indian River watershed.

There are major financial issues, however, that are not addressed in OMYA’s application to the provincial government. OMYA is a major industry in Lanark Highlands and in the county, but currently pays less than $100,000 a year to local governments in property tax and royalties on its Tatlock operations.

The expanded quarry area includes more than a kilometre of the present County Road 9 – an area of more than 30,000 square metres. Any mineral deposit under this road allowance would normally be considered to be municipal property belonging to the county.

OMYA’s quarry application contains the result of boreholes showing a depth of up to 200 metres of marble below the road allowance. Once quarried and processed, this marble could have a market value of well over a billion dollars.

Marble deposits adjoining the road allowance can only be quarried when the road itself is transferred to OMYA. Over time this marble could have a market value of over five billion dollars.

Neither the county nor Lanark Highlands has published any estimate of how much the marble OMYA will access from its quarry expansion may be worth, or of the value of marble in the area affected by the municipal lands along County Road 9. For a major company, however, OMYA is paying far less than its fair share in local taxation on its Tatlock operations. This inequity can be corrected with the planned expansion - even a very small royalty or other payment could be worth many millions in revenues for the county and Lanark Highlands.

OMYA’s planned quarry expansion appears to be acceptable on environmental grounds. But this project provides an opportunity to ensure that local communities receive a share of revenues from the OMYA megaproject.

Documentation on OMYA’s proposal can be viewed at the county headquarters in Perth and township office in Lanark Village and on the internet at http://www.ene.gov.on.ca/envregistry/024160ei.htm. Comments from the public must be filed through the Environmental Registry by Dec. 22. .

Mike Cassidy is Councillor for Ward 5, Township of Lanark Highlands. He can be reached at 613-829-4231 or at <mkcassidy@sympatico.ca>