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The Ontario Aggregate Resources Act governs development of aggregates like gravel, sand, clay, earth, and stone. Most of the aggregate resources produced in Ontario are used for construction, but they are also important for many other industries. In light of controversial proposals to create ever larger quarries, such as the so-called “Mega Quarry” in Melancthon Township, and conflicts with local communities and groundwater protection, the provincial Legislature is reviewing the Act.

The purpose of the review is described as:

“Aggregate resources such as sand and gravel are vital to Ontario’s economy — they are used to build roads, subway tunnels, hospitals and schools. The need for aggregates must also be balanced with the protection of other important resources, like water, green space and agricultural lands. While aggregates are plentiful in Ontario, recent studies show that rising demand due to population growth and land constraints could significantly deplete resources within 20 years. By seeking advice and gaining insight from key stakeholders, the committee will make recommendations to the government about how to strengthen the Act.”

The Act,  as it is currently structured, puts a premium on ensuring access to cheap local aggregate, and makes it difficult for residents to stop quarries. Is this still good social, economic and environmental policy? It is imperfectly integrated with other land-use statutes, such as the Clean Water Act and the various protected area Acts.

On Friday, May 4, the Standing Committee on General Government announced that it will be holding public hearings in Toronto on Monday, May 14 and Wednesday, May 16. Those who wish to make an oral presentation must  contact the Clerk of the Committee by 5:00 on Wednesday, May 9. Written submissions must be received by 5:00 pm on Wednesday, May 16.

The short notice, and the absence of rural hearings, will make it difficult for  people in the communities most  affected  to be heard. There are remarkably few gravel mining opportunities in Toronto, and spring is a very busy time for many in the rural areas.

by Meredith James and Dianne Saxe

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