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The BC Supreme Court has ruled that a contaminated soil treatment facility at run by South Island Resource Management on Stebbings Road is not a permitted use on the property.

The Cowichan Valley Regional District sought an order that prohibits South Island Resource Management from operating its contaminated soil treatment and storage facility on its Stebbings Road property.

The judge ruled that even though there must be a reclamation plan in order to obtain a mining permit, he does not consider reclamation a “core” or integral mining activity that escapes local zoning regulations.

From the presiding judge, The Honourable Mr. Justice B. D. MacKenzie, “In my view, it is only activities that are integral to extraction of the resource that can escape local land use regulation. Moreover, I am unable to agree that reclamation is an integral and necessary aspect of the actual extraction process, such that a local government is precluded from exercising its zoning power to restrict reclamation activities.”

The judge declined to order the removal of contaminated soil currently on the property, deferring the matter to the Ministry of Environment and Environmental Appeal Board: “Because of the difficulty in enforcing a mandatory injunction, and in separating the different material now on site, I decline to order the removal of any facilities or product presently situated on the property. I accept the respondents’ submission that what is presently situated on the property, such as the concrete lock blocks in the soil management area and the upgraded water treatment system, can be a legitimate and important use within the parameters of extraction and the other permitted mining activities of crushing and milling. As far as the application for removal of the material that has already been encapsulated within the engineered landfill is concerned, I defer to the expertise of the MoE and the EAB as to the safety of this product and decline to order its removal.”

Andrew Weaver, Leader of the B.C. Green Party and MLA for Oak Bay-Gordon Head responded to the BC Supreme Court Ruling, “I want to recognize the hard work of Shawnigan Lake residents in coming together as a community and standing up for their rights in the face of government inaction. This is a vindication of their concerns, and wouldn’t have been possible without their tireless effort.”

South Island Resource Management released a statement after the ruling saying it would comply with court orders, and that Cobble Hill Holdings, which owns the property, is considering an appeal.

“It is important to understand this decision deals with only one aspect of our operation. We continue to operate the mine and manage the material already on site.”

The company’s legal counsel is reviewing the implications of today’s decision and will release another statement once they have a full understanding of the impact to the operation.

The 38-page Reasons for Judgement can be read here.

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