June 14, 2017
At a meeting at Yarrow Community Hall on May 18, 2017 called by Dave Caughill & Jim Dunkley, Inspector of Mines, to listen to the concerns of affected residents, Bryan Kirkness admitted that the landslide was caused by blasting at the Parmenter Road Quarry.
The February 18, 2017 landslide was considered a “life-safety” event by Mayor Sharon Gaetz and several families were given evacuation orders by Chilliwack’s fire rescue officers. Traffic on Vedder Mountain Road was blocked for several hours and the City engaged a geotechnical engineer (see the WSP report under documents) to ensure it was safe for residents to return.
Five residents living near the slide area, two Ministry of Mines officials, Bryan Kirkness and his quarry foreman attended the May meeting. The City of Chilliwack was invited to attend but did not send a representative. In a response to queries by one of the residents, Mayor Gaetz indicated that the City had authority to collect fees from mine operators but failed to acknowledge that the City’s Soil Removal Bylaw also gives it a range of other regulatory powers which it has not used.
Residents presented their impact statements related to the February 18th blast and landslide. Resident Scott Gouldsborough told the Progress that after the blast he saw “huge trees collapsing and could hear rock coming down” and he grabbed his wife and dogs and left. Debris came down within meters of his house.
The landslide was covered by CBC, Global News, CTV and the Chilliwack Progress. Bryan Kirkness (as reported in Progress) initially blamed other factors for the landslide including a 4 magnitude earthquake on Vancouver Island. However, both his own geotechnical report and the one commissioned by the City (WSP) indicated that the slide was caused by blasting about 10 metres from a pile of blast rock placed along the top of the slope. Kirkness subsequently build a protective berm on a private property without consultation with the owners.
Ministry of Mines inspectors issued a written order that blasting not be conducted until a geotechnical evaluation had been accepted by the Chief Inspector. The Kirkness operation was required to stabilize the slope immediately below the quarry, to submit a blasting plan prepared by an independent consultant, to monitor all blasts at a site along the north ridge of Vedder Mountain, and to keep blasting away from the ridge and the initiation zone of the landslide until the Ministry is satisfied that blasting can be conducted safely.
Investigator’s Fact Report
In the Matter of a Request for Review between
Kirkness Pacific Holdings Ltd. (“third party”)
the City of Chilliwack (“public body”)
Written Inquiry under
the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (“FIPPA”)
Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner
See this PDF for details: Investigator’s Fact Report F15-61744
An update from the Ministry of Mines to MLA Laurie Throness – Mar 16, 2017 – Click here for pdf
Also a Geotechnical Report Vedder Mountain Landslide Assessment – Click here for pdf
In light of the recent Vedder Mountain slide the following letter was sent to the Inspector of Mines.
Click here for pdf: LETTER REGARDING VEDDER MOUNTAIN SLIDE TO INSPECTOR OF MINES
November 25, 2013
We requested information through Freedom of Interest (FOI) channels regarding the amount of gravel removed by Kirkness Pacific Holdings Ltd/Western Explosives relative to his mining permit Q-7-76 issued by the Ministry of Energy and Mines. The permit states: ”Maximum production shall not exceed 245,000 Tonnes (or 112,903 cubic meters) in a calendar year.”(Section 15 (a)). The audited record shows that for 2010 some 317,753.78 cubic meters were removed; almost 3 times his permit.
The City of Chilliwack has a Soil Removal and Deposit Bylaw 1989, No. 1313 which requires Kirkness to obtain a permit to move materials on its roads. To obtain the permit Kirkness must attach the mining permit from the provincial government which clearly states the maximum removal amount (as above). Each month he must submit the amount removed to the City with payment of $.50 per cubic meter removed, so they clearly know when his permit has been exceeded. The City of Chilliwack has not invoked its own Bylaw 1989; it has allowed him to remove materials even though he does not have a permit to do so for three years 2008, 2009 and 2010.
The records for those three years show that Kirkness extracted 883,042 cubic meters of materials whereas his mining permit allowed only 339,000 cubic meters; in short 544, 042 over permit. The City of Chilliwack collected $272,022 by looking the other way and not enforcing its own bylaw. At a nominal $4 per cubic meter, Kirkness pocketed $2,176,168 from violating his provincial permit.
The Vedder Mountain Preservation Group worked through the inspector of mines who issued a stop work order on January 10, 2011 but was lifted a week later. On advice from the Ministry of Attorney General’s counsel Kirkness was asked to file a remedial plan which requires a volumetric survey be done twice a year by a registered land surveyor. This must be submitted with an updated mine plan as a check on the aggregate production and for comparison with scale tickets. Also, with that directive a caution was issued advising the operator that further violation of his condition or directive may result in a prosecution in accordance with Section 37 and/or a court order as per Section 35 of the Mines Act.
The Vedder MPG continues to monitor the situation by requesting FOI inquiries on his activities in the City of Chilliwack. The information for 2010 was received March 14, 2013.
In September and October a massive salmon habitat restoration project was launched by the Department of Fisheries & Oceans in the Hopedale wetlands, between the setback dikes and the Vedder River. The spawning channels being restored are located between the railroad bridge and the Vedder River Campground south of the river. The bulk of the work done in September and October was between the Bergman Road and the Browne Road access to the Vedder.
The aim of the restoration project is to bring the water levels up in the channels, add channels, and provide pocket habitat for salmon—Chinook, chum, coho, and pink salmon as well as steelhead and cutthroat trout. Some 42, 000 square meters of new habitat is being added. A new water intake from the Vedder River will provide additional water to the present groundwater sources.
The spawning channels were constructed circa 1987 to offset the loss of salmon habitat because of the newly constructed setback dykes along both the north and south sides of the Vedder River. The Vedder is considered to be a world-class recreational fishing area and every fall people come to fish from around the world .
Funding for the project is coming from DFO, the Pacific Salmon Foundation, and the Fraser Valley Watersheds Coalition.
The Fraser Valley Watersheds Coalition will be planting native species along the
newly constructed channels in November using volunteers.
Victor Froese, November 2013