‘Enhanced monitoring’ required at gravel pit

The “enhanced monitoring” at a gravel pit operating on Vedder Mountain will include monthly audits and increased inspections, a ministry spokesman said late Thursday.

While gravel removal is monitored by the company operating the site, a third party will now audit the books and check volumes by on-site surveys, the spokesman said.

There will also be “increased inspection frequency” at the gravel pit operated by Kirkness Pacific Holdings.

A stop work order was issued Jan. 10 after a citizen’s group informed the B.C. Mines Ministry about the company exceeding its permitted level of gravel removal, based on information it obtained through freedom of information requests made to the City of Chilliwack.

The company apparently exceeded its permit in 2007, 2008 and part of 2010, according to the City records. City officials refused to release records for 2009, based on business confidentiality.

The Vedder Mountain Preservation Group charged the gravel pit owner had increased production to increase truck traffic on Cultus Lake Road to justify a proposal now before the ministry to build a conveyor system to haul gravel down the mountain.

But pit owner Brian Kirkness said the gravel was removed to meet two unusually large contracts for the Evans Road project and the Eagle Landing shopping mall development.

He also said he was “surprised” by the stop work order because the ministry was informed about the amount of gravel being removed in the company’s monthly declarations and regular on-site inspections.

The stop work order was lifted after the company agreed to the enhanced monitoring.

The citizen’s group is opposed to the proposed conveyor system, which it says will affect nearby residents and displace, rather than reduce, truck traffic from Cultus Lake Road to Vedder Mountain Road.

The City plays no role in monitoring gravel mines, but is paid a fee based on the amounts reported by the mine operators.

rfreeman@theprogress.com