MHCA Board approves action on quarry rehab payments
Oct. 3, 2019, Winnipeg - The MHCA Board of Directors approved next steps in pressing the provincial government to fulfill its obligation to pay contractors who have rehabilitated spent aggregate pits and quarries.
“We will be sending notices to all aggregate producers and the contractors involved in rehabilitation, advising them of possible next steps, including the option of filing a complaint with the Manitoba Ombudsman,” MHCA president Chris Lorenc said.
“We have worked patiently and cooperatively with Mines Branch and GET officials, in an effort to see contractors who have had their rehab work approved be paid for that work that dates back to 2018. We are more than disappointed with the lack of progress on this file,” Lorenc said.
The rehabilitation program was one of the top concern among the items discussed by the Board of Directors September 25.
Contractors are still owed hundreds of thousands of dollars from work completed in 2018. In one instance, a small rehabilitation contractor has been forced to take work driving a combine for a farmer, because his livelihood has effectively been wiped out.
The provincial Quarry Rehabilitation Program and payments were suspended last year, in the midst of an internal administrative review of the program, which is funded through a special provincial government reserve. The reserve is built on a per-tonne extraction fee paid by the aggregate producers. Producers must continue paying the extraction fees.
The rehabilitation of the spent pits and quarries is done by private contractors. Their work is inspected and approved by the Mines Branch, triggering sign-off for payment by the department out of the reserve.
Some invoices – which totalled more than $800,000 early this year – have been paid, but some payments remain outstanding.
The program itself remains on hold, pending review of the department’s findings by the Auditor General. The MHCA has asked for a status report on the investigation, but few details have come.
Meanwhile, contractors continue to ask when they might see all the payments they are owed. Further, concern for the quarry rehabilitation program is rising. The program is critical to the health of the aggregate extraction industry as it the foundation upon which producers and municipalities sign development agreements.
Rehabilitation returns spent pits and quarries to a state that is more natural to the environment or to a useful condition – such as parks or recreation.
“The delay in this whole process can threaten what has been a very successful program, a critical element to the ability to continue taking aggregates from areas near municipalities, which themselves are being pressured to halt extraction as other development interests, such as residential, encroach upon these areas of aggregate reserves,” Lorenc noted.
“If we can’t extract aggregates from the high-quality mineral reserves close to infrastructure projects – most of which are funded by tax dollars – the cost to the environment and governments will escalate.”
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