Monday, March 5, 2007

Quarry fears

In the valley below my property, alongside the road that runs down to the village of Pont-en-Royans, there's a small stone quarry that went into action in 1973. The extracted material, used mainly for roadside walls and parapets, is known locally as Gamone bluestone.

Two years ago, when their current permit ended, the owners indicated—with the help of a huge technical dossier—that they would like to double the size and output of the quarry, and the authorities launched a public inquiry. I played an active role—along with environmental associations, neighboring municipalities and fellow citizens—in pointing out the negative aspects of this project, which was finally knocked back by the authorities.

A few days ago, I learned that the owners are making a new attempt to obtain a permit to reopen their quarry, based upon lower production figures. For the moment, I don't know whether or not they're likely to succeed. To be perfectly truthful, the pursuit of quarrying operations would not trouble me personally, because the site is a fair distance from my house. On the other hand, the residents of Pont-en-Royans would suffer greatly from the surge of trucks moving through their already-congested main street. And this traffic could have a negative effect upon tourism.

This time however, since there is no public inquiry, we citizens shall not be able to protest. I'm not the only observer who fears that the reopening of the quarry could culminate in a pedestrian getting crushed by a lorry full of Gamone bluestone in the narrow main street of Pont-en-Royans, maybe at the dangerous intersection of the ancient Picard bridge. It's a highly plausible scenario. But powerful people make a lot of money by blowing up mountains and selling top-quality stone. No theoretical accident scenario, no matter how high its probability, is going to discourage them.

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