• Protecting Water and Farmland in Simcoe County

Moratorium On New Gravel Mining Sites Today

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In Agriculture
Sep 9th, 2021
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See the original Water Watcher’s request for endorsement of their moratorium on gravel extraction here: gravel_moratorium_paper_aug-17-2021.

The Climate Crisis Threatens Our Homes

Everyone wants to feel safe and secure at home. Home is where we live, a community and natural environment that surround and sustain us. Increasingly, people are aware that Earth is our collective home and that we are all together. What happens to our backyards determines if we have safe drinking water, clean air, farmland to produce food, and all the things that sustain life. Our homes, our backyards and our future are all connected.

The climate crisis, more visible every year, threatens our individual and collective homes. It can disrupt water security and food production, extinguish species, reduce biodiversity and potentially undermine the conditions that make life possible.

Nature’s supportive relationship with humanity has been ruptured by decades of resource extraction, carbon emissions and unsustainable consumption [1]. In Canada this rupture began with the violent dispossession of Indigenous peoples from their lands and waters. Not just history, this colonisation is an ongoing project that expropriates the use of lands over which Indigenous peoples have inherent human and treaty rights.

It’s time for governments to take serious actions to counter the climate crisis.

Gravel Mining Fuels the Climate Crisis

Extraction of aggregates (gravel, crushed stone and sand) contributes significantly to the climate crisis. Most
aggregates are used in manufacturing cement and to construct buildings, roads, bridges, sewers and other infrastructure. The cement industry produces 8% of global carbon emissions — as a country, it would be the third
largest global emitter of CO2 [2]. (See Reducing Contribution of Gravel Mining to the Climate Crisis, next page).

Road construction and maintenance are also major contributors to climate change, as building more highcapacity roads leads to more driving and sprawl, and more destruction of the natural environment [3]. (See Highways and Climate Change, next page) Excavating new gravel pits and quarries contributes to global warming by destroying the natural environment and removing carbon-sequestering wetlands, plants and soils [4].

Gravel Mining Threatens Homes, Communities and the Environment

Gravel mining threatens groundwater quantity and quality; blasts rocks at distances of up to hundreds of meters at speeds that can injure and kill [5]; pollutes the air with particulate matter and dust [6]; and increases traffic hazards for
children, pedestrians, cyclists and commuters [7]. Communities are torn apart as families leave to escape the assaults on their quality of life. Prime agricultural lands are destroyed, rarely restored to agricultural productivity land after gravel mining [8]. Gravel mining can destroy the value of homes [9].

Political Leaders Betray Their Constituents

People think their political leaders have a responsibility and duty of care to protect them from gravel mining. But
politicians abandon them, leaving them to defend their homes and communities on their own. The permitting process for gravel mining has always been tilted in favour of the aggregate extraction industry [10], a sector dominated by multinational corporations headquartered far away from the damage they cause. The industry already benefits from low fees, minimal inspection and oversight of mining operations, and a free pass from regulations that comparable industries operate under.

Community volunteers opposing permits, face formidable corporations with inexhaustible resources to pay high-priced lawyers, captured experts, lobbyists and consultants. In these ‘David vs. Goliath’ struggles, communities must represent themselves at quasi-legal hearings in front of a single, unaccountable official. Community groups opposing gravel mine applications must organize from scratch, while the companies and their consultants have decades of experience and well-developed tactics to intimidate, exhaust, outspend and outlast communities and municipal councils.

Community volunteers must spend thousands of hours learning complex planning, transportation, hydrogeology, air quality, noise, blasting and other technical specialties. They are often forced to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars to retain lawyers, planners and technical experts, all to navigate a process in which corporations set the pace and intensity.

Commonly, community members discover they have little or no control over gravel mining and what it does to their homes, their family’s health and safety, their communities and their natural environment. The aggregate-friendly policies in Ontario have caused Municipal leaders to become apathetic or resigned to gravel mining operations and as a result, they leave communities to fend for themselves.

Doug Ford’s Gang Will Devour the Future

Premier Ford’s program of more highways, urban sprawl and uncontrolled resource extraction serves developers and multinational corporations. Incredibly, the Ford government has given gravel mining companies more special treatment while adding obstacles in the path of community groups seeking fair and independent decisions [11]. The Ford bulldozer runs over community opposition, guts environmental safeguards, overrides democratic protections with Minister’s Zoning Orders (MZOs), destroys scarce prime agricultural land, and permits unlimited extraction of natural resources without the consent of — or reparations to — affected communities and Indigenous peoples. If not stopped, Doug Ford’s program will devour Ontario’s future.

Gravel Mining MoratoriumToday — Toward a SustainableTomorrow

The Ontario government must act to protect our homes, communities and the natural environment while respecting the inherent rights of Indigenous peoples and responding to the climate crisis. Ontario needs a new approach to managing and regulating aggregate extraction to fulfill its obligations and create a path to a sustainable tomorrow.

Gravel mining is socially and environmentally destructive; the number of gravel pits and quarries must be reduced to the absolute minimum. Ontario’s 6000+ licenced pits and quarries have enough aggregate to meet its needs while a new strategy is developed. Imposing an immediate moratorium on all new gravel mining applications (including interim orders, site plan amendments for mining below the water table and for increasing licensed tonnages) is the first step.

The provincial government must then convene an independent panel of experts and scientists to:

  • Determine the total amount of licenced supply in Ontario’s 6000 pits and quarries (by requiring licence holders to report their aggregate reserves).
  • Set limits on ‘virgin’ aggregate extraction, and targets for aggregate reprocessing and reuse that meet International Energy Agency [1] goals for carbon emissions from cement production.
  • Establish strict limits and regulations on gravel mining below the water table.
  • Base licences for new quarries and quarry expansions on current supply, true cost and demonstrated need.
  • Recommend a fair price for aggregate that includes compensation and restoration for the full social and environmental costs of its extraction.
  • Revise application procedures to fully honour First Nations’ treaty rights, and give municipalities and communities an equal voice in decisions.
  • Close loopholes that allow aggregate producers to scale up operations after licences are granted.
  • Establish sufficient oversight funding to ensure that operators comply with all regulations and licence conditions.
  • Impose an immediate moratorium on all new gravel mining applications (including interim orders and site plan amendments for mining below the water table or that increase licensed tonnages).

 

Time for Action!

Gravel pits and quarries are environmentally and socially intrusive. Gravel mining operations have serious and permanent impacts on communities, destroying critical features of the local environment and changing the landscape forever.

Ontarians deserve a future in which their homes, communities and the natural environment that sustains life are safe and secure. To guarantee a more sustainable tomorrow, a moratorium on new applications for gravel pits and quarries is an urgent and necessary step. Let’s work together — endorse the Gravel Mining Moratorium Today!

1. Consumption by countries in the Global North, if copied by the global population, is equivalent to using up the resources that five Earths produce in a year. See Global Footprint Calculator
2. https://www.carbonbrief.org/qa-why-cement-emissions-matter-for-climate-change & (See Gravel, Cement and Climate Crisis INSET)
3. https://ww2.arb.ca.gov/sites/default/files/202006/Impact_of_Highway_Capacity.pdf
4. https://www.torontoenvironment.org/gravel/impacts, section 3.
5. https://intval.com/articles/Blasting-Quarries-and-Adequate-Setbacks.pdf
6. http://www.apis.ac.uk/node/1145
7. http://cielap.org/pdf/AggregatesStrategyOntario.pdf, pp. 9-16
8. https://ofa.on.ca/issues/aggregates/ Issue Details — Aggregates; accessed 28 June 2021
9. http://cielap.org/pdf/AggregatesStrategyOntario.pdf, pp. 9-16
10. http://cielap.org/pdf/AggregatesStrategyOntario.pdf, p. 15
11. http://gravelwatch.org/property-values/
12. Laurent Barcelo, John Kline, Gunther Watlenta & Ellis Gartner. “Cement and Carbon Emissions.” Proceedings of the 2012 Carbon Management Technology Conference, Orlando, Fla., 2012. The authors cite an IEA CO2 reduction target for cement manufacturing of 22.5% from 2007 levels by 2050, despite a projected 50% increase in cement manufacturing.

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