'Mega-quarry' in southern Ontario won't be built

The application to build a massive limestone quarry in Melancthon township near Orangeville, Ont., has been withdrawn.

Provincial government gets some of the blame

The application to build a massive limestone quarry in Melancthon township near Orangeville, Ont., has been withdrawn.

A spokesman for The Highland Companies, the company behind the proposal, said in a news release that it acknowledges "the application does not have sufficient support from the community and government to justify proceeding with the approval process."

John Scherer also blamed the Ontario government in part for the decision to pull the plug on the project.

The Ontario government ordered an environmental assessment of the project last September, which the province had previously not stipulated as a prerequisite for the development of quarries.

This image depicts the Melancthon quarry superimposed on downtown Toronto. (CBC)

"We would have preferred maybe a regulatory environment that did not change midway through the process," said Scherer in an interview with CBC News. Other business factors also factored into the decision to not pursue the application, he said.

The scope of the project, which would have been developed on prime farmland owned by the company near Orangeville, northwest of Toronto, earned it the moniker "mega-quarry." It would have spanned 937 hectares — about one-third the size of downtown Toronto — and create a crater 1½ times as deep as Niagara Falls.

Those opposed to the project were concerned about losing a massive swath of rich farmland and worried about the quarry’s effect on the water table.

The company had said the limestone quarry would have provided an essential supply of aggregate, used to build everything from homes to roads. But the proposal was met with fierce opposition from the community and beyond.

Scherer wouldn't rule out the possibility of proposing a smaller quarry in the future.

"We haven't made any decisions and we're not even contemplating that," said Scherer. He said the company would focus on farming the proposed quarry lands, which it owns.

The company also announced president John Lowndes has resigned and is no longer involved with the firm.

The Highland Companies consists of a group of private investors in the U.S. and Canada and is involved in farming and aggregates, including a large potato farming operation.

With files from Mike Crawley and The Canadian Press