Citizen Action Monitor

Ontario citizens fight US-backed billion dollar quarry project in Dufferin County

No 222 Posted by fw, July 16, 2011

STOP THE QUARRY!” That’s the rallying call to action. By any and all means necessary — including direct action — STOP THE QUARRY! Ontarians and fellow Canadians, unite in support of CAUSE, the Dufferin County citizens’ coalition at the centre of a fight to stop a duplicitous US hedge fund from ripping an open-pit scar on the face of our pristine Ontario landscape.

By way of a brief introduction, three existing community Ontario coalition/ratepayers’ groups, that share a concern about a proposed mammoth open pit mine to harvest limestone in Dufferin County, have joined to form CAUSE, a not-for-profit corporation. They fear the deleterious effect this mine will have on surrounding communities throughout southern Ontario. The founding groups are:

The following post is reposted, with minor modifications,  from the About Us” page on CAUSE’s website —


CAUSE’s Mandate — To effectively challenge plans to create a massive open-pit mine in northeast Dufferin County that could impact much of southern Ontario now and for generations.

Over the past four years, The Highland Companies (“Highland”) (privately owned and funded by a Boston-based hedge fund, the Baupost Group), has gained ownership or control of approximately 7,500 acres of contiguous prime agricultural land about 100 km north-west of Toronto. An application is expected shortly for a permit to extract limestone from an open pit quarry to a level about 200 feet below the water table and covering 2,400 acres. Highland is also in the process of purchasing a rail line running from Mississauga to Owen Sound which could enable the export of aggregate beyond Ontario to unknown jurisdictions. A significant program of clearing trees and demolishing homes and barn structures is already underway on several century-old farm properties that they acquired. In fact, despite widespread public outcry and condemnation, 30 homesteads have already been demolished by the new owners.

Potential Impacts:

  • The proposed location for this mega quarry would remove some of the best agricultural land in Ontario from production, possibly forever.
  • The land abuts the sensitive Niagara Escarpment (a UNESCO Biosphere reserve) and is just outside of the Oak Ridges Moraine and the designated Ontario Greenbelt.
  • It is highly unlikely that a quarry over 200 feet deep and 2,400 acres in area could ever be successfully remediated back to agricultural or similar uses.
  • The proposed location is in an area that is recognized as one of the primary sources for water recharge that feeds the headwaters of the Nottawasaga and Grand Rivers.
  • The repercussions of quarrying into this watershed could affect well over one million people that are downstream from, and served by, these watercourses.
  • The technology to quarry 200 feet below the water table is unproven and could cause irreparable environmental damage.
  • The lands are situated in Melancthon Township, one of the least populated municipalities in the Province with a very small tax base. As the unlucky target of this massive intrusion, the Township will require considerable public and private resources to adequately consider an application fronted by an army of consultants and public relations’ professionals.

Relevant History

Highland’s duplicitous sales pitch — While acquiring the land over the past four years, Highland stated that its intent was simply to become the biggest potato farming operation in Ontario. However, their initial activities unearthed an ulterior motive.

Confirmation of Highland’s real plan: open-pit mining — In January 2009, concerned local residents, many of whom are involved in the potato farming business created the North Dufferin Agricultural and Community Task Force (NDACT) with 11 community-nominated directors. With their own funds, NDACT retained experts who confirmed that significant core sampling, well testing, tree cutting, archaeological and other studies were consistent with pre-testing for aggregate/limestone extraction rather than the stated intent of simply continuing with farming production. This strategy was subsequently confirmed by Highland when they formally unveiled their plans for a massive industrial limestone extraction and processing operation.

Allies join the fight — In July 2009, CORE (Conserve Our Rural Environment) agreed to actively support NDACT as the owners of the proposed quarry also own lands in Mulmur, and initial plans for this massive open mine abut the common border between Melancthon and Mulmur and threatens their shared watershed. In December 2009, another community group called MC2 (Mono Mulmur Citizens Coalition), joined with CORE and NDACT to create CAUSE.

Highland makes public its mining plan — In July 2009, Highland hosted a community consultation in the Village of Horning’s Mills. It confirmed it will file for an aggregate licence imminently upon completion of technical studies. This intent to file was publicly confirmed as recently as January 17, 2011 by a Highland spokesperson.


What CAUSE is up against — The municipal and provincial approvals process for the mega quarry is complicated and well understood by the proponents and their consultants. They have assembled a large professional team of engineers, lawyers, planners, lobbyists and public relations’ experts and they have spent the past few years assembling their technical arguments and refining their legal, government and communications strategies.

Protecting the Watersheds in the Headwaters Area is Your Concern — To effectively challenge the claims and assurances that will accompany this overwhelming intrusion on the environment and our communities will require considerable effort by citizens and local third parties so that decision makers can do the right thing. The other side is backed by a multi-billion dollar U.S. hedge fund and the profit potential for their U.S. investors is substantial if they are allowed to eliminate farms and jeopardize watersheds so they can extract millions of tonnes of limestone for decades to come.

This is Not Just a Local Fight — We need all Ontarians to intervene in this process – take a political interest, volunteer to help CAUSE and/or one of its sister community organizations and just as importantly – we need to raise money! We need to engage a team of hydrogeologists, rural planners, municipal and aggregate lawyers and other experts to guide us through this complicated approvals process, enlighten us about technical matters and lead us in challenging the conclusions and assurances currently being developed.

How to Get Involved

Stay informed: Check the websites listed at the top of this post for updates. Contact CAUSE by email at or visit its website at:


  1. Sign a petition to Stop the Quarry — join more than 125,000 others who have already signed
  2. Donate: To make a donation, contact for details
  3. Read a summary of the proposed application and its potential consequences here.
  4. Submit letters stating your objections to the mega quarry application to:
    • Mr Craig Laing, Agricultural Resources Officer, Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, 2284 Nursery Road, Midhurst, Ontario L0L 1X0 and to
    • The Highland Companies, P.O. Box 377, Shelburne, ON L0N 1S0.
    • Send copies of your letters to CAUSE: by email to or by post to Box 15, Honeywood, ON L0N 1H0
    • Suggestions about writing your letter are available here.

Founding Members of CAUSE

  • Robert Green (Director) Mr. Green is a graduate of the University of Toronto Law School. He is a partner in North American Development Group, a real estate development and management business that is active throughout Canada and the U.S. He currently serves on the board of directors of a number of public and private companies as well as numerous private and not-for-profit corporate boards concerned with environmental issues, including NDACT and CORE. He has been a resident of Mulmur Township since 1996.
  • Harvey Kolodny (Director) Harvey Kolodny has resided in the Headwaters area for 11 years. He is President of the Dufferin Arts Council and a director with the Mono Mulmur Citizens Coalition, a citizens’ organization dedicated to preserving the quality of rural life in the region. Harvey is a Professor Emeritus in the Rotman School of Management and the Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering at the University of Toronto.
  • Dianne Lister, LL.B, CFRE (Director) Dianne is the new President and Executive Director of the ROM Board of Governors and has worked in the charitable and not-for-profit sector in senior executive roles and as a consultant since 1986. Dianne received her B.A. (Honours) from Trent University, and her law degree from Osgoode Hall Law School. She has been a resident of Mulmur since 1995 and is a member of NDACT.
  • David Patterson (Treasurer) David is the CEO and Founder Northwater Capital Management Inc. He is a long time investor and asset manager with extensive experience in alternative investments. For more than a decade David has enjoyed a family home in Mulmur Township and is deeply concerned that the location of the quarry is right at the headwaters of several major river systems.
  • Jane Pepino (Director) N. Jane Pepino, Q.C. (LL.B Osgoode Hall Law School, 1970; LL.M, University of Texas at Austin, 1971:) Jane was called to the Ontario Bar in 1973, and founded Aird & Berlis’ Planning and Land Development Department upon joining the firm in 1982. In 1990, Jane and her family purchased 50 acres in the north end of Mulmur Township, where she operates a small cow-calf operation. She chairs a local ratepayers’ group, C.O.R.E. (Conserve Our Rural Environment), which has faced challenges such as proposals for gravel pits, quarries and industrial wind turbine installations affecting Mulmur residents.
  • Norman Wolfson (Director) Norman is Partner and President of Lecours Wolfson, a recruitment firm specializing in the Hospitality Industry’s search for Executives, Managers and Chefs. Norman has been a Landowner in Mulmur since 2001. Since January 2009, he has been the Vice Chair of the North Dufferin Agricultural & Community Taskforce (NDACT).
  • David Warren (Advisor) Educated in Toronto in Business Administration, David has had a successful career over the past 40 years, mostly as a partner at Avison Young Commercial Real Estate Inc. Since 1985, David has had extensive board level experience with several not-for-profits and small companies. Currently he sits on the Board of Nature Conservancy Canada, and MC2. David & his wife Cheri own a 45 acre farm in Adjala (westerly tip of the Oakridge Moraine), and a home in Toronto.
  • Don MacFarlane (Advisor) Don is currently President of the Board of the Mono Mulmur Coalition, a local rate-payers organization. He retired after a 30-year career in international business with PepsiCo, which included senior management positions in operations covering Canada, Latin America and Asia. He now operates a consulting business supporting several Canadian and U.S. companies. After living many years in Mexico and the United States, Don is now resident full time in Mulmur.


Local residents share their concerns about the proposed mega quarry —

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