Ontario's aggregates: social licence and healthy communities

The Ontario government is soliciting feedback on the aggregates industry.

You can also provide feedback - the survey link is here, comments are open until May 1, 2019: https://www.ontario.ca/form/ontarios-aggregate-reform

We submitted the following comments (feel free to use and adapt them):

What is the greatest challenge facing aggregate resource management in Ontario today and in the future?

Open-pit mining and the aggregate extraction are highly unpopular due to the loss of prime farmland; truck traffic, dust and negative property value impacts; risks and damages to groundwater, and air quality issues such as dust; and massive abandoned and unrehabilitated site issues.

This largely self-regulated industry seeks to expand in Southern Ontario's most population growth-heavy, ecologically sensitive headwaters such as the Oak Ridges Moraine and the Niagara Escarpment. Yet, in 2010, 42% of aggregate sites were not doing progressive rehabilitation, which undermines their temporary land-use designation.

What are the best opportunities for managing aggregates resources in Ontario in the next three to five years?

The provincial government can support the aggregate industry by providing innovation incentives to improve recycling rates for concrete, bricks, glass and other materials. The industry must also be incentivized to improve its progressive rehabilitation rates in order to create truly sustainable aggregate management, and to rebuild their social licence to operate in aggregate-adjacent communities and municipalities.

What are the main barriers to achieve those opportunities?

Given that the industry has achieved only a 7% recycling rate, barriers include the sourcing and classification of materials that can meet the construction industry's demand - the province can support this sourcing and materials classification system.

In addition, a corporate culture of externalizing drinking water risks and rehabilitation costs on to small, rural municipalities poses a significant barrier to sustainability, and requires the province to challenge bad corporate actors while they are still in business.

How can the provincial government support Ontario’s aggregate resource development in the future?

The provincial government can define sustainable aggregate management to include protecting deposits for future use, and addressing the industry's land-use and climate impacts.

How can Ontario manage aggregate resources more competitively?

Level the playing field for good corporate citizens - the ones that undertake progressive rehabilitation, protect communities from air and water quality risks and exposures, and respect local infrastructure (roads, windrows, etc.) - and take action against those that threaten the aggregate industry's social licence before they are able to abandon sites for small rural municipalities to have to deal with.

Do you have any suggestions to help Ontario manage aggregates with regards to land use planning?

Enforcing the current requirements for progressive rehabilitation will help to rebuild the industry's social licence in conflict-laden aggregate-adjacent communities.

Acknowledgement: Thank you to Caitlin Port for her research on this issue, which formed the basis for these comments and references. https://uwspace.uwaterloo.ca/bitstream/handle/10012/7966/Port_Caitlin.pdf


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