BarrieToday welcomes letters to the editor at [email protected]. Please include your daytime phone number and address (for verification of authorship, not publication). The following letter is in response to a letter from Norman Cheesman, executive director of the Ontario Stone, Sand and Gravel Association, published Aug. 11.
Norman Cheesman, executive director of the Ontario Stone, Sand and Gravel Association (OSSGA), in a recent letter to the editor stated the biggest environmental impact of gravel mining in Ontario is truck emissions.
This statement fails to account for the carbon emissions that occur in the process of extracting the gravel including the disruption of the site itself, and it ignores other significant environmental impacts such as contamination of ground and surface water resources, destruction of natural habitat, and degradation of air quality.
Cheesman also fails to recognize that aggregate is the feedstock to the climate crisis. Aggregates are used to build and maintain the road system that carries the cars and trucks that are responsible for carbon emissions in the first place. The cement industry, to which aggregate is also a feedstock, is responsible for eight per cent of carbon emissions worldwide. If the cement industry was a country, it would be the third-largest emitter after the U.S. and China.
The gravel-mining industry is very aware that the public would be outraged if it saw the damage to the landscape of new pits and quarries. It hides the destruction behind berms, ‘green walls’ designed to prevent passersby from seeing how the gravel-mining industry scars more of Mother Earth, like some especially virulent and permanent acne.
Mr. Cheesman takes issue with the concern expressed about the proliferation of “disturbed lands” from excavation operations. Research by the Reform Gravel Mining Coalition, based on publicly available data produced by the Ontario Aggregate Resources Corporation, shows that for the period 2001 to 2020 there has been an increase in total disturbed land of 42.8 per cent, even allowing for a loose understanding of what qualifies as rehabilitation, “naturalization,” for example. So, even though the production of gravel in that period has remained relatively constant, the scarring of Ontario landscapes has increased significantly.
Mr. Cheesman’s statement on rehabilitation of pits is also contrary to the common-sense experience of people who live near abandoned pits and quarries, some of which have been dormant for decades.
Finally, any community that has participated in an appeal to a licence application knows it is not a level playing field. In fact, it is a David-versus-Goliath struggle, with the Ontario government favouring the Goliaths of the gravel-mining industry. One only has to remember the ‘secret summit’ the industry organized with the Ford government in the first year after the Progressive Conservatives were elected. Many if not all of the items on the gravel-mining industry’s wish list have been implemented.
One can understand why the OSSGA would like to deflect attention from comprehensive public examination of negative impacts of gravel mining in Ontario. However, it is time for a moratorium, a temporary pause, on all new gravel-mining applications in Ontario. A business-as-usual approach will mean greater climate chaos and further loss of natural environmental assets. Ontario needs to chart a new path forward for gravel mining in Ontario that preserves groundwater, the environment and ensures sustainable management of non-renewable gravel resources.
For more information visit reformgravelmining.ca.