RE: Auditor general: aggregate industry not in compliance; ministry not providing oversight, Jan. 18.
The Auditor General’s report highlights the need for increased inspections of aggregate sites and increases in penalties and consequences for those who do not comply.
The Ontario Stone, Sand and Gravel Association (OSSGA) agrees, and together with top aggregate producing municipalities, have been calling for an increase in the aggregate levy to help fund increased inspections for nearly a decade.
It is important to provide context to the Auditor General’s report. The vast majority of inspection reports point to administrative compliance issues such as not paying dues on time, having damaged fence posts or signage infractions which do not negatively impact the environment, however, are important nonetheless. OSSGA will partner with the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) and our members to rectify these matters.
That work is already underway. The article highlights the shortage of experienced aggregate inspectors. Both government and the private sector have seen many experienced staff taking retirement, yet despite this labour shortage, the ministry has increased inspectors from 22 in 2022 to 34 in 2023. An additional 19 inspectors have been hired and to training initiatives are underway.
Rehabilitation and the closing of pits and quarries is another area of concern. The report points to sites that have not seen active extraction in 10-plus years, yet the producers have not surrendered the licence. The report does not say that there hasn’t been any progressive rehabilitation on these sites. In fact, it could be that 50, 60 or even 70 percent of the site has been rehabilitated and only a small area remains to be extracted.
A site often sits dormant when there is no local market for the material. The remaining aggregate might not meet current project needs but there will be a market for it in the future. To be environmentally smart, producers try to remove all of the aggregate before that site is closed. Even if it takes 25 years. In the meantime, the site will be progressively rehabilitated, and most people will not even know it is there.
What the Auditor General report does do is affirm that close-to-market aggregate is required to meet the demand for infrastructure in Ontario. We need roads, hospitals and schools and the 1.5 million homes promised by the government. We need to extract the aggregate needed to build that infrastructure in the most environmentally friendly manner possible, which requires that it be extracted in communities that are aggregate-rich. Puslinch is one such community.
The province of Ontario is expected to grow by nearly 4 million people over 25 years. To build the infrastructure required to support that growth, approximately 4 billion tonnes of aggregate will be required.
OSSGA looks forward to collaborating further with communities like Puslinch and the ministry to help foster a robust and environmentally friendly approach to extracting the stone, sand and gravel fundamental to building Ontario’s bright economic future.
Ontario Stone, Sand and Gravel Association