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Mega-quarry Backed by Boston Hedge Fund Wants to Eat Prime Spud Farmland

First Nations and other groups are protesting a mega-quarry backed by Boston hedge fund Baupost Group that would destroy farmland and risk water contamination.
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More and more people are joining a fight against a limestone quarry that the Highland Companies, backed by a U.S. hedge fund, wants to build on 2,300 acres near Melancthon Township, Ontario. Opponents, including prominent aboriginal leaders, say it would not only ruin prime farmland but also desecrate Chimnissing (Beausoleil) territory to create the second-largest quarry in North America and the largest in Canada, a five-kilometer-wide affair with a steeper drop than Niagara Falls.

A Boston hedge fund, Baupost Group, is behind the project, which is backed by renowned investor Seth Klarman. First Nations are among those objecting vociferously. Beausoleil First Nation and other tribes will conduct water ceremonies in the area starting in early August.

They are not alone. The town council of Melancthon, population about 3,000, has formally requested a provincial government environmental review, according to the Orangeville Banner.

Fears that the massive undertaking will poison several rivers, in addition to inflicting other environmental damage, have prompted nearly 130,000 people to sign a petition asking Ontario Minister of Natural Resources (MNR) Linda Jeffrey not to approve the project. Her stamp is required for digging to begin. She has been mulling it over since mid-July.

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Highland acquired the land, opponents say, by assuring buyers that it would be used for growing potatoes. Presumably they did not make that assurance in writing, because as soon as the company had amassed 8,000-plus acres, it turned around and said that the real agenda was a limestone quarry, farmers claim.

Highland does actually grow potatoes, so the company’s purchase of $50 million in potato farmland wasn’t a total lie, and according to The Globe and Mail, the fallback position is actual potato farming if it can’t get the quarry going.

With an estimated billion metric tons of limestone a mere six meters beneath the surface, the potentially $25 billion loot is tempting, and the stakes are high.

The quarry would cover 2,400 acres and drop 240 feet, deeper than Niagara Falls, and require the removal of not only the aggregate limestone but also of 600 million liters of water daily, water that would be returned to the watercourses at a different temperature, containing surface contaminants, with 300 trucks an hour 24/7. The land sits at the headwaters for several important water systems, such as the Grand River, which flows into Lake Erie, according to the public policy advocacy group the Council of Canadians.