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March 26, 2013

John Willms Quoted in Article - Property Owners Seek Assurances on Pit Project

In an impassioned plea to Timmins council, the owner of the Senator Place Apartments asked the city to ensure neighbouring property owners to the proposed Hollinger open pit mine are financially protected.

Bill Hughes told council Monday night residents and property owners have real concerns about subsidences occurring as a result of the release of underground pressure that would potentially be caused by the dewatering process.

There is potential for “catastrophic results” from this development, he warned.

“I beg you, be careful,” said Hughes, adding that council has a responsibility to protect its citizens.

He said he can’t get insurance for damage caused by ground movement or explosions from neighbouring mining operations so he needs to know city council is looking after the interests of its citizens.

“If it turns out there is damage, that things happen, the ministry (of the environment) will not cover the liability of the decisions you make here that are not within the provincial legislation.”

He said the only recourse in that circumstance would be through civil litigation.

Hughes added that he has no intention of taking one of the world’s richest mining companies to court in order to be compensated for property damages if they occur.

Timmins residents shouldn’t be placed in that position by its municipal council.

Hughes’ presentation comes a week after Timmins council was presented with a draft site plan control agreement in support of the Hollinger open mine pit project. At this point, Goldcorp is waiting for the city’s approval for the site plan control agreement and for air approvals from the Ontario Ministry of the Environment.

However, Hughes advised council that he has filed an application to appeal the dewatering permit that has been issued by the MOE.

That matter will have to go before an environmental review tribunal.

If Hughes’ application succeeds, the permit would be held up.

John Willms, an environmental lawyer who representing several residents and business owners neighbouring the proposed Hollinger open pit site, told The Daily Press his clients are simply looking for assurances their properties will be covered for damage by the mine or the municipality if something goes wrong.

He said the draft site plan control agreement that was presented to city council last week doesn’t provide that assurance.

Willms said Goldcorp isn’t putting up money up front in the form of a letter of credit, to cover the costs of any potential damage.

He said the only “guarantee” provided in the agreement is a ceiling of $10 million but that only applies to the reclamation work that will come after the site is mined.

Goldcorp has proposed to rehabilitate the 250-hectare property into a multifaceted park with walking trails, green space and a lake in the centre.

Council was asked by its planning staff last week to review the draft site plan agreement and provide any comments or feedback by Oct. 26.

The city’s planning department will also be accepting comments from the public until that date.

Once making any necessary modifications to the agreement are made, a detailed report and recommendation to council will be presented at the Nov. 5 meeting.

Coun. Todd Lever said he had doubts about all the engineering details being provided in time for council to make an educated decision on this issue within two weeks.

“I think there are still a great deal of issues that need to be worked through,” Lever said. “I don’t think two weeks is a realistic time frame ... If we pass this on Nov. 5, there are going to be some unanswered questions.”

The Daily Press (Timmins) October 2012