“People in Northern Ontario value their landscapes just as highly as the people that live in Southern Ontario, so I don’t believe that moving the extraction farther from where it’s being consumed is the right solution in any way,” said Moreen Miller, president of the gravel association.
The rub, though, is clearly spelled out in the government-commissioned review: 93 per cent of unlicensed bedrock resources in Southern Ontario have overlapping environmental, planning and agricultural constraints. Friction over quarries is inevitable.
An uncertain future
The constant wave of quarry proposals has made many Southern Ontario communities uneasy. Earlier this year, the province’s top 10 aggregate-producing municipalities formed a coalition to push the province for changes, including higher royalties to repair roads, improved oversight of land rehabilitation and better environmental analysis of quarries operating below the water table. The Ministry of Natural Resources is now preparing to review aggregate legislation.
“We’ve reached a point where the municipalities and the residents are really fighting,” said Caledon mayor Marolyn Morrison, vice-chair of the coalition. “There’s so many applications coming forward that it has just raised its head.”
As a result of the mountain of opposition to the Melancthon Quarry, the Highland application will undergo a provincial environmental assessment, the first time one has been ordered for a quarry in Ontario. The final verdict on whether the Amabel dolostone pit will be allowed to go ahead won’t likely occur for years.
Mr. Izhakoff of Highland said it’s too soon to say whether the firm’s investors would be open to downsizing excavation plans for Melancthon. Highland, he said, wanted to put its entire long-term plan before the public, instead of mining bit by bit, application by application.
“Our view was that this was a very responsible way to do it. Put all our cards on the table,” Mr. Izhakoff added.
But many people remain wary, including Michael Wilson, a former federal finance minister and Canadian ambassador to the U.S. from 2006 to 2009. Mr. Wilson’s second home, a country retreat in his family for nearly half a century, is about seven kilometres from the proposed mega-quarry. He’s worried about how the industrial development will affect the region’s agriculture, water and highways.
“There’s a significant amount of work that has to be done to understand what the broad impacts are,” Mr. Wilson said. “At the very least, if the environmental assessment supports it, then I’d say that the project has to be carried forward in a measured way ... To let that go just full tilt without any controls on it, I think, would be quite irresponsible.”