Boston Hedge Fund Vs Stewards of theEarth Farmers and Aboriginals OpposeMega Quarry
February 16, 2012
Far from the rolling farmland of southern Ontario sits Seth Klarman,dubbed a superstar in the investor world for his investment prowess.He presides over the Baupost Group, a $24 billion hedge fund basedin Boston.Little is known about Klarman, described as “secretive” in a February story inFortunemagazine. But residents of bucolic Melancthon,population 2,900, feel they know enough: His hedge fund wants todevour a chunk of their farmland with a quarry.It’s not just any quarry. It’s a mega-quarry, bigger than any othersuch project in Canada, and it would be used to extract the limestonethat lies beneath the farmland—the very thing that makes the soil verdant enough to produce much of the region’s potatoes, amongother staples.Even more striking: Much of the limestone sits below the water table,so part of the proposal of the Highland Companies, whichsurreptitiously bought the land under which it plans to mine, is topump 600 million liters (160 million gallons) of water daily out of thesite to keep it dry enough for working as it extracts 200 feet below the water table. The water would eventually be returned, but localresidents question how it can be kept clean enough for drinking water. What lies beneath this farmland about 70 miles north of Toronto is a billion metric tons of aggregate, which is sorely needed to build roadsin the growing province. It also represents potential billions in profitfor Baupost and Klarman who has zero stake in the community.It sits at the head of five major rivers that supply drinking water tomore than a million people. Highland has assured everyone that it will be environmentally responsible. But people say that with such alarge-scale operation there is no way to tell, and no going back if anunintended environmental disaster were to happen.