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.