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Vancouver developer Ender Ilkay, owner of the Marine Trail Resort group of companies, has racked up thousands of travel miles in pursuit of his Vancouver Island real-estate development dream.
Ilkay's seven properties – publicly-managed forestlands until 2008 – straddle the slopes just above Juan de Fuca Trail between China Beach and Sombrio Beach, on the ocean side of Highway 14. An army of consultants has filed dozens of reports supporting his plan to build nearly 300 vacation homes and a resort on the boundary of Juan de Fuca Park.
At the same time, regional directors have heard dire predictions that if they vote against the resort application, Ilkay could start a gravel mining operation on the park border.
But that will prove to be difficult, if not impossible. Last week, local environmentalists bought the mineral rights on almost all of Ilkay's properties.
Zoe Blunt announced today that allies of Forest Action Network have secured mining tenures on 400 hectares of Marine Trail Holdings and surrounding land along Juan de Fuca Marine Trail Park.
"If anyone decides to start hauling gravel, we have the right to stop and inspect every load. We own all the minerals in the ground," Blunt said. "The law also provides that the free miner's agents can enter the property for prospecting purposes."
Blunt suggested mineral tenures could provide community members with forest-friendly employment. "Park-lovers across the Capital Regional District should rest assured: The free miners have pledged to protect the forest. There's no danger that an open-pit mine will degrade this beautiful wilderness trail."
In 2008, free miners used the same tactic against Langford's Bear Mountain Resort, where developers destroyed historic caves and ran up a ten-million-dollar municipal debt. Then the bottom fell out of the luxury home market. When the landowners let their mining tenures lapse, local environmentalists snatched them up.
Blunt said the Bear Mountain and Marine Trail developers were "sloppy."
"These hotshots talk about putting together deals worth hundreds of millions, and they don't even secure the subsurface rights on their own land," she scoffed. "We did it online in a half hour. It cost $150."
Talk about clearcutting the properties is another empty threat, Blunt warned. "This is second-growth timber. It would cost more to cut and haul than it's worth. And 70% of the land is either too steep or too wet to log."
Blunt said she will be consulting with elders of the Pacheedaht First Nation about the mining claim. The mining tenures could be transferred to another group next year.
To view the five claims staked March 31 by the free miners, visit Mineral Tenures Online and enter "Save the Fuca" in the "Claim Name" field.