Provincial government, industry look for improvements in aggregate resource management

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john Yakabuski speaking
John Yakabuski speaking to the Barrie Chamber of Commerce (Facebook feed)

Ontario Construction News staff writer

The provincial government will leave no stone unturned, as it looks for ways to improve how aggregate resources are managed across Ontario.

Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry John Yakabuski visited Barrie last Friday, to talk about his plan and how the public can get involved.

The Ontario Stone, Sand and Gravel Association has estimated that the province will use the equivalent of 125 million tandem truckloads of aggregate resources – sand, gravel, clay, earth and bedrock – over the next 25 years.

Speaking to the Barrie Chamber of Commerce, Yakabuski said that with the numbers so high, the provincial government plans to act quickly to support growth while also “maintaining a steadfast commitment to protecting the environment.”

Based on feedback from an Aggregate Summit held in March 2019 that included about 70 participants from industry, municipal, Indigenous communities and key stakeholders, as well as survey and email submissions, the MNR is releasing a proposal that aims at reducing administrative duplication and delays and promoting economic growth within the aggregate industry.

Roundtable sessions at the Summit focussed on three main areas:

  • Industry: how to reduce red tape and obstacles that impact the aggregate resource industry
  • Rehabilitation: how to ensure sustainability and stewardship
  • Municipal & Indigenous Communities: how can we work better together

“The Greater Golden Horseshoe Region is projected to grow by approximately four million people by 2041,” Yakabuski said.

“To support that growth, we will need aggregates to build our homes, schools, roads and transit systems.  That’s why we have developed a proposal that will create opportunities and support growth, while maintaining a steadfast commitment to protecting the environment and addressing impacts to our communities.”

The aggregate proposal is available on the Environmental Registry of Ontario for public feedback until Nov. 4.

Key proposed changes include improving access to aggregates within road allowances; clarifying jurisdiction on Crown land and depth of extraction; and clarifying how haul routes are considered under aggregates legislation.

Ontario is also proposing to strengthen protection of water resources through a more robust application process for requests to extract aggregates below the water table and will continue to review the required technical studies to ensure groundwater resources are protected.

“Our made-in-Ontario environment plan commits to keeping our water clean and healthy now, and for future generations,” said Jeff Yurek, Minister of the Environment, Conservation and Parks.

“These improvements will ensure continued strong protection of source water and municipal drinking water while supporting a thriving aggregate sector.”

In 2017, Ontario’s aggregate industry generated over $1.6 billion in production revenue and supported more than 28,000 jobs in aggregate-related sectors. That same year, the industry created more than $1.6 billion in production revenue and included more than 28,000 jobs in related sectors, Yakabuski said.

The aggregate summit in March looked for ways to reduce administrative duplication and delays, the minister said. It was an opportunity for industry, municipal and Indigenous leaders to share their ideas for cutting red tape, creating jobs and promoting environmental stewardship and economic growth within the aggregate industry.

Key themes included reducing duplication, improving access to resources, protecting agricultural land and water and enhancing rehabilitation efforts.

Ontario is also proposing to strengthen protection of water resources through a more robust application process for requests to extract aggregates below the water table and will continue to review the required technical studies to ensure groundwater resources are protected.

Regulatory changes are also being considered, including:

  • enhanced reporting on rehabilitation requiring more context and detail on where, when and how rehabilitation is or has been undertaken.
  • allowing operators to self-file changes to existing site plans for some routine activities.
  • Allowing some low-risk activities to occur without a licence if conditions specified in regulation are followed. For example, extraction of small amounts of aggregate if material is for personal use and does not leave the property.
  • streamlining compliance reporting requirements, while maintaining the annual requirement.

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