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Pits & Quarry Approvals

Aggregate Resources in Ontario

Aggregate pits and rock quarries are handlers of water, not water consumers. Despite being a relatively “clean” industry, the aggregate community is coming under increasing environmental scrutiny as a result of increased public awareness and conflicts with other land uses.  As well, there is pressure from Ministry of Natural Resources, Ministry of the Environment, local Conservation Authorities and municipalities to ensure that potential environmental impacts are understood, predicted and mitigated as much as possible. Regulatory duplication continues to hamper this sector, but being aware of these factors allows Azimuth to remain efficient in addressing such concerns for our clients. With any non-renewable resource, there is some form of impact, however, the degree of impact can be minimized or mitigated, particularly for off-site form and function.

The aggregate industry has several limitations. Pits and quarries must be located where suitable materials are found.  Their location is entirely a function of their depositional environment. High quality unconsolidated deposits (gravel, sand) are frequently found as eskers, kame moraines or glacial spillways. High quality limestone is in certain locations in Ontario where the bedrock outcrops is buried to only a shallow depth by the overburden. Today, these settings can be environmentally significant, on a local, regional or provincial scale (e.g. the Niagara Escarpment).

Shortages of aggregates in specific market areas, especially the Greater Toronto Area are because of depletion of existing reserves, decreased access to aggregate reserves due to environmental and social restrictions, and sterilization by urbanization. Increased protection of the Niagara Escarpment and the Oak Ridges Moraine simply shifts aggregate extraction to more remote sources.  Regardless of the proximity of the primary aggregate resource areas to the market, the potential environmental impacts of the extraction of aggregate relates to three broad categories:

changes in ground water characteristics, which may affect other ground water users or ecosystems;

changes in surface water characteristics, which may affect fisheries and wetland habitat; and

disruption to flora and fauna.

The Regulation of Aggregate Resources

The extraction of sand, gravel, and bedrock resources is regulated under the Aggregate Resources Act.  Under the Provincial Standards of the Aggregate Resources Act, applications are required to be accompanied by a Level 1 and/or Level 2 Natural Environment and Hydrogeological Studies. 
While the Aggregate Resources Act specifically regulates pits and quarries, other legislation may apply during the application for a licence and during the operation of the site, to further strengthen environmental protection.  These may include:

Conservation Authorities Act

Environmental Bill of Rights

Environmental Protection Act

Fisheries Act

Lakes and Rivers Improvement Act

Municipal Act

Niagara Escarpment Planning and Development Act

Greenbelt Act

Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Act

Ontario Water Resources Act

Planning Act (Provincial Policy Statement), and

the Clean Water Act.

Environmental Evaluations to Comply with Ontario Regulations

Azimuth Environmental Consulting, Inc has extensive experience, which includes, but is not limited to:

Level 1 and 2 Hydrogeological Investigations in support of successful Aggregate Resource Act licenses for both pits and quarries throughout southern Ontario (cumulative surface water and groundwater impact assessments);

Ontario Water Resources Act Section 34 (Permit to Take Water) and Section 53 (Certificate of Approvals) for pits and quarries in both southern and northern Ontario;

Aggregate Resource Evaluations (resource estimates for sand and gravel pits and limestone quarries);

Third party review of Ministry of Northern Development and Mines Aggregate Resource Mapping;

Thermal Impact Assessments for pits which extract from below the water table;

Fisheries Impact Assessments for pits which extract from below the water table;

Environmental Impact Assessments for pits in southern Ontario; and

Expert testimony at Ontario Municipal Board OMB and Litigation Proceedings

Additional information can be obtained by contacting Mike Jones or David Ketcheson directly.