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Background of the Location

The Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish) place name for McNab Creek is “Kw’ech’ténm,” which means “cutting fish place.”  First Nations people have visited this valley and the shores of McNab Creek for hundreds of generations past.

The private land directly adjacent has been residential since the 1940’s.  Today, fourteen homes are enjoyed year round by owners in the 16 lot McNab Creek Strata.  The area is renowned for hunting, fishing, wildlife viewing and for its beauty, and quiet.  The threat of rezoning the adjacent land to allow heavy industry has been ongoing for the property owners. Due to the environmental recovery of Howe Sound Orcas, whales and dolphins have returned to this area.  Once again, this recovery is under threat.

The privately owned BURNCO land in the McNab Valley has been trading ownership since 1970 when Canadian Forest Products (CANFOR) obtained a Crown Land Grant.   Logging is still ongoing in this valley today.  In the late 90’s a channel was constructed that runs parallel to McNab Creek, this was built as compensation for annual dredging of the Rainy River in another valley by the pulp and paper company at Port Mellon.  An extension to this channel was built in 2003 by DFO and monitoring of fish activity has been ongoing.  

In the 1990’s Westcoast Gas Service was granted an environmental assessment certificate to store Liquified Natural Gas adjacent to the existing natural gas pipeline.  The storage facility would have been 7.5 kms. from the shore of Howe Sound.   The land falls within the jurisdiction of the Sunshine Coast Regional District (SCRD) and is zoned RU-2 Rural.The project was strongly opposed by the public, and the SCRD turned down the rezoning application.  Westcoast Energy did not proceed with the project due to economic reasons.

In the early 2000’s Howe Sound Pulp and Paper Ltd. received ownership of the property and in 2004 sold to AJB Investments, part of the Surespan Group.  AJB was proposing gravel mines along Chapman and McNab Creeks.  In 2008, BURNCO Rock Products purchased the 320 hectare property with the intention of developing a large scale gravel operation.  In 2016 the Box Canyon Run of the River Project brought its 16 megawat project online.  This project diverts three creeks, Box Canyon Creek, Marty Creek, and Cascara Creek which are tributaries to McNab Creek.  The powerhouse is located 1 km. from the shores of Howe Sound.  The project would have required a permit from Fisheries and Oceans, but changes to the Fisheries Act in 2012 removed that requirement.  It is too early to determine the impacts this project is having on fish downstream as well as the impact of noise during full operation.  The Province requires appropriate zoning for run of the river power projects, and the SCRD complied.

McNab Creek in Howe Sound BC

Timeline of the BURNCO Proposal:

Quick facts on Howe Sound

McNab to Lions Bay

Burnco Rock Products proposes to build a large scale gravel mine at McNab Creek,  smack in the middle of the Sound. They plan to dig a 30-hectare pit, build an onsite crushing and processing plant, and produce 20 million tonnes of aggregate per year over 16 years. The project will create only 14 direct operational jobs. The total footprint would be 70 hectares.

We believe 14 jobs aren’t worth it. Clamshell Dredge

Industrial activity will be an eyesore, machinery noise will disturb quality of life and reduce property values. Vibrations will interfere with marine mammals’ navigation, food finding, and reproductive systems—effectively driving the orcas and dolphins away.

McNab Creek currently hosts bald eagles Eagle surveying for a meal , Roosevelt Elk , and an estuary flourishing with marine life . Burnco’s consultants identified 23 species at risk that this mine would threaten. The Departments of Fisheries and Oceans expressed strong concern about the project’s impact to fish and fish habitat, particularly chum and coho salmon.

And still, plans for the mine continue.

Howe Sound has undergone a $76 million clean-up from the Britannia Beach copper mine . The Sunshine Coast Regional District will make the final call.

Future of Howe Sound Society has been granted public participant funding by the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency . We represent a coalition of local non-profit organizations who oppose this kind of non-renewable resource extraction in this location.

Key Concerns

  • Noise reverberating off the mountains surrounding the site and the ocean.  This area is valued for its peace and quiet.

  • Decline in property values and natural capital values.   Howe Sound watersheds provide an estimated annual value of $800 million to $4.7 billion in ecosystem services.

  • No benefit to the local community, only loss of quality of life from noise and industrial activity.Suzuki wetlands

  • Effects on marine life, wildlife, fish and recovering Howe Sound.

  • Effect on the biodiversity and ecological value of the estuary.

  • Rezoning from current rural RU-2 to industrial use.  Rezoning increases industrial land use in Howe Sound not protection.

  • Indirect and direct job losses due to negative effects of the mine on other economies in the area for only 12 permanent jobs created.

  • Cumulative impacts on wildlife from the new Run of the River power project and ongoing logging in the McNab Valley.

  • Future expansion of the mine beyond 16 years and its current size.

How you can help –  Environmental Assessment Office rarely rejects a project.  We need your support in making sure they understand the serious issues at stake.

Participate in the public comment period

Write to your elected officials and the SCRD

Support our efforts

Sign the petition

Media regarding the BURNCO project:

Squamish Chief:

June 4, 2010 – McNab Valley gravel mine project launched  Sep. 9, 2014 – Burnco revises gravel mine plan   Aug. 11, 2016 – BURNCO submits environmental application

Georgia Strait

Feb. 12, 2012 – McNab Creek Gravel Mine Threatens all of Howe Sound

Coast Reporter

Sept 4, 2014 – BURNCO revised gravel mine plan  Sept. 25, 2014 – SCRD calls for halt to BURNCO review  Oct. 16, 2014 – SCRD backs off BURNCO plan  Aug. 11, 2016 – BURNCO application enters comment phase  Aug. 18, 2016 – BURNCO information overwhelming   Nov. 16, 2017 BURNCO project is a catch 22.

Common Sense Canadian

Sept. 17, 2012 – Top 10 Reasons to Save Howe Sound’s McNab Creek from a Gravel Mine

More about Burnco projects from the media

August 2015 – Calgary CTV News

July 2015 – Edmonton Journal

April 2015 – Global News

February 2015 – Spruce Grove Examiner

January 2015 – Edmonton Journal

December 2014 – Stony Plain Journal

(Please forward any info, errors, omissions to info@futureofhowesound.org )
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8 Responses so far.

  1. Kathy Polito says:

    There are many reasons that this large scale gravel mine should not be located in McNab Creek. I am shocked that it is even being considered.The area is fragile and pristine, the impact would be devastating to wildlife. Should we not protect our precious ecosystem ? It is shocking to me that this proposal has gone this far we have so much gain by protecting this bio diversity.

  2. Edna Thomson says:

    To the BC Environmental Assessment Office re the Burnco Mine application of August, 2016

    Dear EAO,
    So, this is the second go-round with Burnco and public protest of their request for approval. This letter is to bring to your attention the undeniable environmental damage this industry would do in Howe Sound. So many of us want you and the company to realize that beginning with the estuary site location near Squamish envisioned, all aspects of this industrial extraction activity would be conclusively wrong for Howe Sound. Please answer this question honestly: Why aren’t you and the Burnco company thinking responsibly about environmental protection of this iconic sound?

  3. Edna Thomson says:

    Re: The Burnco Mine proposal application of August, 2016 to the BC Environmental Assessment Office.

    Dear EAO,

    So, this is the second go-round with Burnco and public protest over their request for approval. This letter is to bring to your attention the undeniable environmental damage this industry would do in Howe Sound. So many of us want you to know that beginning with the estuary site location near Squamish, all aspects of this industrial extraction activity would be conclusively wrong for all of Howe Sound. Please answer this rhetorical question honestly – Why aren’t you and the Burnco Company thinking responsibly about environmental protection?

  4. donna patrick says:

    Please take the time this next few weeks to see some of beautiful howe sound.. if this mine opens there will not be a moment of silence , the sound will vibrate off the mountain walls and changes the land forever.. Polly Lake mine can be heard all the way to mitchel Bay.. a place that used to be the quiet place on earth.. Please help in any way you can stop this mine from happening for 16 jobs and hundred of tankers going past Bowen Island and Gibsons.

  5. Dan White says:

    Is there no petition going around for public outreach? People across the province would sign.

  6. Gerald Madden says:

    Unlimited shareholder liability (complete waiver of limited shareholder liability) is required for consideration of any of these projects that have potentially unmeasurable catastrophic environmental and health and safety risks. As well a huge deposit of $100 billion is required to pay for damage when it occurs.

  7. Dan Gillies says:

    Strongly opposed to this project in such a pristine, fragile coast ecosystem.

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