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Entrepreneur facing roadblocks getting started with granite business

Mark Brace is ready to start producing dimension stone but is having trouble getting through some red tape.
Mark Brace is ready to start producing dimension stone but is having trouble getting through some red tape. - Advertiser

Local businessman having trouble due to red tape

BISHOP’S FALLS, NL – Mark Brace, a young entrepreneur from Bishop’s Falls, believes the provincial government’s claims that it supports budding entrepreneurs is less than sincere.  

The 24-year-old acquired the rights to the granite-processing quarry on Jumpers Brook near Bishop’s Falls in April 2017 and plans to start a business called Ocean Floor Granite.  

The business will provide a rare type of granite to a variety of markets around the world. The product is superior and has no competition in the area, as it is the only quarry of its kind in Atlantic Canada, Brace told the Advertiser. 

Brace hoped to have business running by September, but that didn’t happen thanks to some government red tape, he explained.  

He said he acquired the land through someone who had been in the granite business back in the ‘80s; however, back then it appears it was much easier to start a business.  

Brace needs to first acquire the mineral rights to the property before he can begin moving forward, even though everything at the site is ready.  

“It is easy to get the mineral rights, but a mineral lease is different,” he said. “To get the mineral lease, you would need (to hold) the mineral rights for three years. After three years of testing rocks they (government) will then consider giving out a mineral lease. Also, a mineral lease requires engineers involved and surveys, so this could add an extra year to the process making it four years of wait time,” Brace explained.  

The Department of Natural Resources noted it would be pleased to see Jumpers Brook restarted as a dimension stone mine.  
The department has had discussions with Brace and area MHA Jerry Dean, offering advice and assistance, according to a response sent to the Advertiser on behalf of Natural Resources Minister Siobhán Coady. 

“At present, the area of interest to Mr. Brace is held by another person, whom is in good standing. In other words, another person holds the mineral license rights and in accordance with the Mineral Act, is therefore the holder of the property and minerals in question.  

“Mr. Brace does have an agreement for surface rights to access and use the property. However, this agreement does not provide the right to explore and mine the dimension stone mineral.” 

In order for Brace to operate Jumpers Brook mine, he requires the mineral license, according to the statement.  

The road leading into the quarry is also a concern. 

Brace said the road was badly damaged by a hurricane and he believes it’s government’s responsibility to fix it; however, he said government isn’t doing anything about it.  

The Advertiser reached out to the Department of Fisheries and Land Resources, which confirmed the road is its responsibility. The department is aware of repairs required to this particular road.  

“We are currently assessing the cost to repair the road,” the department explained in a statement sent to the Advertiser. “Work conducted under the Forest Access Roads program is currently administered by the Department of Transportation and Works, and is prioritized based on approved five- and one-year forest management plans.   
“Priority is given to new, re-construction, maintenance and structure replacement projects in support of current commercial harvesting activities. The program budget is allocated for the current fiscal year.”  

Because of the condition of the road, Newfoundland light Power won’t go in to set up power for Brace.  

Meanwhile, vandals been on his property, causing damage requiring thousands of dollars’ worth of repairs, he said 

According to Brace, Newfoundland and Labrador is the only province in Canada with so much red tape surrounding dimension stone. He said in other provinces and in Labrador, a person only needs a quarry permit in order to produce dimension stone.  

“Newfoundland is the only place that has this policy and not even Labrador has this red tape. I would like to see them change to the same as Labrador where you only need a quarry permit to do dimension stone,” Brace said.  

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