By Bill Jackson - The Regional
Nichols Gravel Limited and its owner Gary Nichols have been fined $20,000 each and ordered to pay court costs of $9,000 for breaching a court injunction that prohibits the company from operating a Hagersville quarry without a license.
Last July, Nichols held a press conference at the site, located at 2746 Con. 12, where he announced that the quarry had been leased to a Six Nations company called Aboriginal Imports.
Operations commenced soon thereafter and blasting and crushing activity has been undertaken during the past six months to extract and produce high quality aggregate.
Nichols contends that the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) has used "illegal, unlegislated enforcement" to make him comply with pre-operation conditions of a license that were not identified in an Ontario Municipal Board order, thereby freezing his assets and putting people out of work. In a press release issued last year, he stated that such enforcement efforts had produced 38 separate counts of charges to the company and its officers and that the lease to Aboriginal Imports had "been brought about due to the harassment and malicious prosecution…"
MNR Enforcement Officer, Gary Zacher argues that Nichols did not follow pre-operating conditions in his license and that there are responsibilities which must be followed to operate a quarry.
Zacher said the MNR had to prove to the court that ongoing operations without proper measures in place posed a threat to public safety. Operation of the quarry that could cause harm to the water table has been the chief concern historically, especially for local residents and farmers in the vicinity.
A Notice of Revocation of License issued in 2004 and signed by the former Minister of Natural Resources, David Ramsay outlines 10 reasons including the failure to provide water monitoring wells and water collection systems.
Zacher said there is an ongoing investigation into the quarry operations, the involvement of Aboriginal Imports and the company's owner, Bill Monture.
According to Zacher, the supposed lease agreement between Nichols Gravel Limited and Aboriginal Imports has not been made available to the MNR, or the courts.
"Gary (Nichols) said the man is in agreement with him, but we have no proof."
Monture has been up front about his intentions and perceived rights, however.
In a press release issued last summer, he clearly stated that "Aboriginal Imports shall operate the Nichols Quarry…
"Our position is that a permit or license is not required at this time from any level of Canadian government to operate this quarry until such time as all
MNR officers were allegedly at the quarry last September, "in the dark," to investigate operations. In another press release, Nichols accused them of negligent misconduct in respect to the Occupational Health and Safety Act and said that if Zacher continued to interfere with the business of Aboriginal Imports "he will no doubt find himself dealing not with Nichols Gravel Limited, but directly with Mr. Monture and the Mohawks of the Six Nations."
The court injunction against quarry operations that was issued in November of 2006, and given to Monture last summer, restrains the defendant, Nichols Gravel Limited, "or their substitutes or anyone acting under their instructions, anyone aiding or assisting the Defendants or anyone having knowledge of this order…" from operating the quarry.
In his recent decision, a Superior Court Judge ruled that Nichols knew what the property was going to be used for at the time he entered into a lease with Aboriginal Imports, Zacher emphasized.
Last Friday, Nichols told The Regional News that he was not prepared to make a statement regarding the court's recent decision to impose $49,000 in fines. The decision will be appealed and a press release will be issued at a later date, he said.