Brothers Barry and Alan McLean of Valley Gravel Sales Ltd. with the Jake McDonald Mine Reclamation Award.

Valley Gravel Sales wins B.C. Mine Reclamation Award

Small family business takes major provincial prize

A small family-owned gravel mining business in Aldergrove-Abbotsford is celebrating their big win of a provincial award usually reserved for the major mining companies.

On Dec. 4 the British Columbia Technical and Research Committee on Reclamation (TRCR) presented the annual Jake McDonald Mine Reclamation Award to Valley Gravel Sales Ltd. at a ceremony held in Vancouver.

The trophy, a 70 pound piece of jade mounted on a wooden base, now includes the Valley Gravel Sales name alongside major players such as Teck Resources and Highland Valley Copper.

“It’s the first time it’s been awarded to a small player like ourselves,” said Barry McLean, who along with his brother Alan owns the Valley Gravel Sales business.

“One of our staff dubbed it the Stanley Cup of land reclamation.”

The award is in recognition of Valley Gravel Sales work in reclaiming three Abbotsford gravel pit properties between 2010 and 2013 to a standard where agricultural capability is at least equal or superior to the agricultural capability prior to gravel extraction.

Those three properties in West Abbotsford, totaling 37 acres, were mined over the course of about a dozen years before three years’ worth of work was put into the final reclamation process, which wrapped up in 2013.

Three feet of sand and screened topsoil was laid down to create ideal growing medium on the acreages, which have since been sold to farmers who now have it in agricultural production.

More than a million tonnes of gravel was removed before final reclamation. The topsoil had been stored on the property and the sand was screened from on-site material as well.

Barry and Alan said that approach has been the practice since their late father, Doug McLean started the company in 1973 alongside their older brothers Rod and Norm.

Alan joined the business in 1983, followed by Barry in 1995.

“Dad was a farmer at heart — dairy and beef cattle — and he believed in putting the land back in use for farming, even before the Agricultural Land Commission was created and all the new rules came into effect,” said Alan.

“Land which is very steep or hilly or rocky can be mined and reclaimed, with the help of agrologists, hydrologists and engineers who assist in how to mine and finish the property. We just have to follow a set of drawings. Screening the topsoil is a lot more expensive but gives the best results.”

Valley Gravel Sales supplies customers such as concrete manufacturers with washed sand and rock, mined from their properties in West Abbotsford.

The Metal Mine Reclamation Category Award was presented to Huckleberry Mines Limited for its habitat compensation works in the form of successful remediation of fishways in a local creek in the vicinity of the Huckleberry copper mine near Houston.

“By their successful balancing of job creation with environmental commitment, these companies exemplify B.C.’s dedication to responsible mining. I thank them for the important work they do in ensuring that B.C.’s mining industry earns the community acceptance that is necessary for a successful, sustainable mining industry,” said Bill Bennett, Minister of Energy and Mines and Minister Responsible for Core Review.

“We are very pleased to recognize the innovation that is characterized by the award winners,” said Jonathan Buchanan, Chair of the TRCR. “From reclaimed agricultural land in the Fraser Valley to revitalized water and terrain landscapes at one of B.C.’s metal mines, we are pleased to recognize two leaders in B.C. mine reclamation.”

Submitted photo: Valley Gravel Sales Ltd. co-owner Alan McLean and consulting agrologist Dave Melnychuk on the reclaimed Valley Gravel Sales land on Huntingdon Road in West Abbotsford, which is now in agricultural production.