Letter to Minister of Natural Resources requesting review of the Aggregate Resources Act

March 22, 2012

Honourable Michael Gravelle
Minister of Natural Resources

Suite 6630, 6th Floor, Whitney Block

99 Wellesley Street West

Toronto, Ontario M7A 1W3

Dear Minister Gravelle,

Today is World Water Day.  One of the biggest threats to our water in Ontario is one that we can control by simply reviewing and updating Ontario’s dangerously outdated Aggregate Resources Act (ARA).   What better time than World Water Day to recommit to your government’s election promise to do just that.

As the Green Party’s candidate in Dufferin-Caledon, I know firsthand the effects of this antiquated policy. I live near the proposed Melanthon Mega Quarry, which threatens the headwaters of five major river systems in southern Ontario. The statistics are mind-boggling.   The Mega Quarry would excavate an area over 200 hundred feet below the water table, threatening our drinking water.  It would manipulate about 600,000,000 litres of water every day (roughly 100,000 times more than an average “major residential development”), which equates to approximately 25% of all water consumed/used in the province each day.

It is unfathomable that the province does not require a full environmental assessment for aggregate applications that meet the Ministry of Natural Resource’s definition of a “mega quarry” (currently 150,000,000 tonnes), or for quarries that excavate below the water table.  Never mind the issues of destroying the natural heritage and huge tracts of irreplaceable farmland surrounding the GTA.

Make no mistake, however, this is not about one quarry.  Nor is this a not-in-my-backyard issue. The Melanthon Mega Quarry is a symbol of a much more profound problem. The fact that we as Ontarians could even entertain such a devastating blow to a critical source of our water and food supply just underscores the immediate need of this ARA review.

I’m writing today to request again that the Liberal government fulfill its election promise to review the ARA.  On behalf of the Green Party of Ontario, I also propose that these key elements be included in such a review:  public education and input on the Aggregate Resources Act;  stringent new requirements for environmental assessments on applications; incentives for more efficient use of aggregates, aggregate recycling, sustainable mining practices;  and stronger site rehabilitation efforts.  Changes to the ARA should coincide with revisions to Ontario’s growth plans to support more balanced population and job growth around the province, while eliminating the population quotas that impose unsustainable and unaffordable growth on some municipalities.
 
We understand well the need for cost-effective sources of gravel in our modern world.  However, we also believe that the informed preservation and protection of our water resources, farmland and natural heritage needs to be considered on equal footing in any meaningful aggregate mining policy.

Minister, I encourage you to take a moment on World Water Day to consider how important clean water is to the life and the health of our communities.  Do the right thing and review the ARA now.

Sincerely,

Rob Strang
Deputy Leader
Critic, Ministry of Natural Resources