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A Newfoundland case has sent a discouraging warning to major industries across the country. City Sand and Gravel Limited operated a quarry in St. John’s. Because of the regular blasting, the Department of Mines and Energy required a buffer zone of 300 meters between the quarry and residential developments. In 1984, a developer successfully obtained planning permission to build a residential development only 225 meters from the quarry. Once a subdivision was built too close to the quarry, fly rock from blasting began to land there.

The Ministry, having approved construction of the subdivision knowing that was in the buffer zone, then prohibited blasting and required the City Sand and Gravel to incur significant expense and to give up using part of the quarry. Eventually, they sued.

The Newfoundland Court of Appeal has now held that the government owed no duty of care to the quarry company, even though they knowingly allowed the subdivision to be built in the buffer zone.

The moral? Industries that require buffer zones around their operations cannot count on governments to keep subdivisions out of them. Industries have to aggressively protect the buffers, either by buying the necessary land or by actively participating in all relevant planning decisions.

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