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I am remiss and must apologize for my delay in recognizing and applauding the fact that the Township of Oro-Medonte has joined many other municipalities across Ontario by requesting the province to place a moratorium on new gravel pits and quarries.
This moratorium seeks a better understanding of the need for aggregate expansion, a better understanding of the negative impacts of aggregate mining and calls for improvements to the approval and oversight of the aggregate industry.
I had approached my councillor, Shawn Scott, on this matter and provided him with background materials. At the April 27 council meeting, Coun. Scott made a presentation and a motion in favour of such a moratorium. This motion was broadly supported and unanimously passed by Oro-Medonte council.
There are currently 22 pits/quarries in Oro-Medonte occupying nearly 2,800 acres of land and there are further lands in the township’s Official Plan designated for potential aggregate expansion. The pits in Oro-Medonte are largely on the Oro Moraine. A moraine is an incredibly unique concentration of environmental, geological and hydrological features.
In Ontario, aggregate mining consumes (or, you might say, destroys) an average of 5,000 acres per year.
The motion adopted by Oro-Medonte council noted the following. (In parentheses are comments added by me.)
- There currently is no need to prove “need” in applying to the province for a licence for a new pit. (There are currently over 5,000 pits across Ontario and it is estimated there is currently a 13-year supply of aggregates in Ontario based on what is currently licensed. So, a moratorium to better understand the impacts and improve process/controls over aggregate mining will not reduce the supply of aggregates to the construction industry in the short to mid-term.)
- Gravel pits and quarries can cause the permanent destruction of natural environments, habitats, and countryside when not properly planned and managed. (I am particularly concerned about the impact on the water supply, which most residents in Oro-Medonte rely on.)
- Pits and quarries have negative social impacts on host communities in terms of noise, air pollution, and truck traffic on haul routes. (And, I will add, public safety.)
- They are taxed at an agricultural rate despite being a commercial operation. (This results in the loss of millions of dollars of property tax revenue for the township. You and I get to pay for this.)
There is an urgent need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in order to combat climate change. There is a very high carbon footprint associated with the production of concrete and asphalt, which are major end-users of aggregates.
So, thank you, Oro-Medonte council, for listening and for passing this moratorium — asking the province to put the brakes on new aggregate pit approvals until further studies and analysis can be done. Pits are a necessity of construction, but the damage to our landscape is permanent, so it is well worth the time to better understand the need, the impacts and move forward based on need and in the most sustainable and environmentally friendly way as possible.