Removing aggregates and minerals from the earth has environmental impacts on land, water, air and wildlife.
Aggregates (e.g., sand, gravel, and bedrock) are used for road building and other construction. The Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) is the lead ministry responsible for regulating aggregate pits and quarries under the Aggregate Resources Act (ARA). The MNRF has delegated to the Ministry of Transportation the authority under the ARA to issue and manage wayside permits and aggregate permits, when the aggregate is required for provincial road projects. Other ministries, such as the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change (MOECC) and Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing, may also play a role in regulating aggregate operations under other legislation, including: the Environmental Protection Act; Environmental Assessment Act; Ontario Water Resources Act; Conservation Authorities Act; Planning Act; Niagara Escarpment Planning and Development Act; Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Act; and Greenbelt Act.
Mineral prospecting, extraction and rehabilitation are primarily regulated by the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines (MNDM) under the Mining Act, although Class Environmental Assessments under the Environmental Assessment Act, and MOECC approvals and permits under other statutes also apply.
- An Application for Review submitted by Gravel Watch (a non-profit environmental organization) prompted action by the MNRF to strengthen the monitoring and enforcement of the rehabilitation of aggregate pits and quarries.
- In response to calls from stakeholders, an Application for Review, the ECO and the public, the government consulted the public through the Environmental Registry and passed the Mining Amendment Act, bringing the Mining Act into the 21st century.
- Following the Environmental Commissioner’s review of an Application for Investigation, the Unimin Mine near Peterborough was eventually fined $406,250 over dust-related issues (see the Supplement to our 2012/2013 Annual Report)
- The ECO recommends that the provincial government develop a new mechanism within the ARA approvals process that screens out, at an early stage, proposals conflicting with identified natural heritage or source water protection values. However, natural heritage protection continues to be one of the most contentious issues in approving and overseeing aggregate operations (2006/2007 Annual Report).
- The ECO recommends that the MNRF, in consultation with the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change and the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing, develop a law to ensure that peat harvesting is carried out with minimal ecosystem disturbance, and that appropriate rehabilitation is undertaken. No progress has been made on this recommendation (2004/2005 Annual Report).
The ECO has reported on many issues related to aggregates and mining, including: regulation; planning and siting; environmental impacts and enforcement; and rehabilitation. Below is a selection of the ECO’s reports and articles on aggregates and mining. You can also use the search bar at the top of this page to search our website and reports for a particular word or phrase.