TORONTO — A coalition of environmental groups is pressing for a moratorium on all new applications for gravel mining in Ontario.
Environmental Defence, the Wilderness Committee, Wellington Water Watchers and the Council of Canadians recently announced the establishment of the Reform Gravel Mining Coalition.
RGMC says it represents grassroots community groups engaged in "David and Goliath" struggles against corporations "that put profits over people and the environment."
Close to three dozen community groups opposed to new quarries in their areas have endorsed the project.
Quarries are a hot-button issue all across Ontario, including the Thunder Bay area.
The coalition maintains that the permitting process for gravel mining is tilted in favour of the aggregate extraction industry.
"Gravel mining companies engage in a ‘wild west claim staking’ approach of land-banking multiple sites for future extraction of a finite resource. Gravel mining sites need to be minimized not maximized," it states.
The group argues that operators already have access to more gravel than they need.
Further expansion, it says, will hurt the natural environment, damage communities, and accelerate climate change.
RGMC wants an independent panel appointed to examine current provincial policies during a moratorium.
However, a spokesperson for the gravel industry says it's already subject to heavy regulation including more than 25 pieces of legislation.
Sharon Armstrong of the Ontario Stone, Sand and Gravel Association also said there's currently only 10 years of close-to-market supply.
Armstrong added it's important to understand that "until the material is extracted, we don't know the quality of that aggregate. Second, it currently takes an average of 10 years to license a new pit or quarry."
She said the industry and the province are facing a major problem in that stone, sand and gravel are currently being used at a higher rate than can be supplied in the future.
"More aggregate production will be required to maintain and upgrading aging infrastructure and continue to grow Ontario's economy."
Armstrong said that from both an economic and environmental perspective, it makes sense to locate pits as close as possible to where the material is needed.