Silica plant still in the pipeline

Silica Plantby EVAN MATTHEWS

The future of a proposed silica processing plant near McBride will come down to just a couple of things, according to the Regional District of Fraser-Fort George.

Jim Martin, Chief Administrative Officer for RDFFG, says the applicant — a company registered out of Red Deer, Alberta called 1823606 Alberta Ltd. — will have to provide more information about the company, along with a noise and dust control plan detailing ways to mitigate the impact of both.

“All of that is back with the applicant,” says Martin.

The RDFFG is in the process of amending bylaw 2892 in reference to the property, which is accessed off Ziedler Road and River Bend Road, and the bylaw’s amendment is being held at its second reading until the regional district receives the noise and dust control plans.

A report to the board by RDFFG staff dated Mar. 7, 2016, reads, “The applicant has applied to amend Bylaw 2892 to facilitate a mineral resource processing use… The proposed amendment would add Mineral Resource Processing as a site specific amendment.”

A public hearing was held on Feb. 24, 2016 with 165 people in attendance, the report states, and 97 letters were received.

The minutes of the hearing, which are attached to the report, show many of the people in attendance favour the proposed processing plant in order to create jobs and provide economic opportunity to the Village of McBride.

“It’s hard to watch the town shrink and people leave,” said Peter Hulka at the public hearing. “I work and live here. I support the project.”

On the other hand, some people opposed the potential noise and dust created, and the potential health problems often associated with silica processing.

“My experience is regulators don’t regulate,” David Marchant said at the public hearing. “I don’t share the belief that silica is not harmful.”

Silica is commonly associated with silicosis, according to silica-safe.org. Silicosis is lung fibrosis caused by the inhalation of dust containing silica. Loose silica in sand has not been proven to be harmful, but negative health impacts have been linked to processed silica, which includes cutting, sawing, drilling or crushing the mineral, according to Occupational Health and Safety. That’s because those silica particles are smaller and not bound to other particles. Breathing in silica dust may cause lung disease and lung cancer, and only takes a very small amount of airborne silica dust to create a health hazard, according to the website.

The property for the proposed processing plant has a long history of industrial use, the report reads, and was most recently used as a plywood plant, but has been vacant for some time.

“I’m in favour,” said John Molodwich at the public hearing. “The dust is valuable and they won’t let the dust go if they can make money with it.”

The Goat could not find out by presstime how long it will take the proponent to develop the dust and noise control plans.

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