CanLava Mining Corp. doesn’t want to dump toxic garbage in Nazko. The company is based in Langley where they make products for the construction industry, the landscaping industry, and their main consumer product is LavaGrip which helps with traction for walking on ice.
Their mine for these products is the Nazko Cone Volcano west of Quesnel in the heart of Nazko First Nation territory. CanLava trucks about 20,000 tons of rock from the mountain to the Lower Mainland. All those trucks then roll back to the quarry empty. That backhaul, also called deadheading, could be turned into a money-maker if they could transport contaminated soils back to an unused portion of their mine site. There are customers ready to use this service.
CanLava has started the provincial permitting process to do this, but they did not get the prior consent of the Nazko First Nation, as is recommended for all land-based industrial proposals, trusting that the public hearings and scientific documents would cover that. It didn’t. At a public hearing this past week, vehement opposition dominated the conversation.
Now, one of the three owners of the company, David Porter, says they will have to play catch-up with the Nazko people if they hope to go ahead with this plan. But he is optimistic about the science and the safety assurances.
The main point he knows he needs to address is the misunderstanding about what this soil really is. It is dirty dirt, not dangerous dirt, and when it sits for a period of time it ceases to be dirty. Many so-called brownfields exist in towns and communities all over the map. The soils there contain material that, by regulation, has to sit idle for a prescribed amount of time. That’s all this dirt would be.
“We’ve chatted with a couple of folks (at the public hearing) and they had heard we wanted to drop off toxic waste, they used that word, and that’s not what it is at all,” Porter said. “It’s non-hazardous. Once that soil has sat for a number of years, it can go to a garden centre.
“That’s a ton of people for that area,” Porter said, recognizing the nearly 100 people who came to the public hearing. “And there was anger. Folks had made up their minds before it even started, so I would suggest there is a fair amount of fear. It tells me we have to do a much better job of communicating.”
The site they have in mind is already on their permitted mining site, and would only require some digging to accommodate the soil, and the industry-standard sealing processes so runoff water and aquifers could never have an effect.
Porter said he felt strongly that the work the company has done in the past to build relationships with the Nazko community was a good point to expand on. He said there were practical challenges to being a small company, not a publicly traded corporation with deep pockets, but he looks forward to the engagement to come, and applauded Nazko First Nation chief Leah Stump for having the community’s best interests at heart as a first position.
“I think chief Stump is excellent,” he said. “I think Leah, great credit to her, has great engagement in her community and I think that’s wonderful. Her engagement will make a difference.”
He is hopeful the merits of the CanLava proposal will be recognized, once they are carefully examined, and hopes for Nazko First Nation to be partners in the venture.
“This is a good, stable, long-lasting source of employment and revenue,” he said.