Jon Butler said he discovered in the spring of 2010 Vale's aggregate licence covered not only the company's existing quarry near Willisville, located in the La Cloche Mountains near Espanola, but also a large swath of additional land in the region.
The land covered by the company's aggregate licence included Willisville Mountain, an area which has been the subject of many photographs and paintings, as well as the area near Lang Lake and Charlton Lake.
A quarry, known as the Lawson Quarry, has been in existence in the area since the middle of the last century. It supplies silica used in Vale's smelting operations.
“We always knew the company owned the land, but we had no idea that this aggregate licence was so extensive,” Butler said.
Butler and other citizens asked Vale last spring to relinquish its aggregate licence for much of the land in question.
The company agreed to consider the request, as its existing quarry has enough resources to last another 80 years, and it had no plans for major development in the area.
Vale announced April 15 it is voluntarily surrendering portions of its aggregate licence.
Company spokesperson Angie Robson said it took a long time for Vale to give its approval because “internal discussions” needed to take place.
Robson said the move is a “great example of co-operation” between the company and its neighbours.
“The community, particularly Jon Butler, have been extremely constructive in their advocacy in this issue,” she said.
“It's been a very positive experience working with the community. We're happy that we've been able to act on their concerns in a way that benefits all of us.”
Butler said Vale's decision makes for a “historic day for Canada, Willisville, the art community and especially for Willisville Mountain, which will now be there for future generations, so they can come and enjoy the beauty of the area.”
“Willisville Mountain is an area rich in beauty and even richer in history,” Jon Treen, general manager of Vale's Ontario operations, said in a press release.
“It is an iconic landmark that should remain undisturbed, and Vale is committed to the ongoing stewardship of the area.”