Gravel Pits Are Everyone's Business

On the subject of aggregate extraction and its impacts, people generally assume that pits and quarries are local issues, their impact on water supplies, traffic, pollution, air quality, noise levels and quality of life only affecting those who are in their immediate path. The reality is that every new pit or quarry mining operation below the water table raises the potential threat to the ecosystem as a whole.
Credit River

Quality and supply of our water depends on the health of our ecosystems. Any impacts are distributed over many kilometers since ecosystems are interconnected.

This association  is complicated further by interconnected aquifers that also have a relationship with surface waters.

From the recent testimony of a prominent hydrogeologist in a case of water taking at a bottling plant we know with reasonable probability that water taken in large volume from an aquifer in one county can affect water table levels in another connected aquifer in a county many miles away.

Sometimes the threat presented by below the watertable mining can be managed. But there are risks associated with failed management measures. These increase in proportion to the number, size and proximity of pits which are invading a system of interactive aquifers.

Massive extraction operations which break through the water table disrupt naturally protected water reservoirs. No one - layperson or expert - can predict with certainty where that water lies or how it will behave.

Where's the Oversight?

No one disputes that gravel is fundamental to our modern existence.

The search is on for new conservation methods, responsible sourcing, green mining standards and policies that will support sustainable agriculture.  Selling the Assets

There is a new cultural and political climate emerging in which we can ask when IS enough, enough!
    Can an area have too many mining operations at the same time? When is an area simply not the place for more licences?

The mere presence of sand, gravel or limestone in the ground cannot be the sole determinant of whether these materials should be extracted.
    How does sacrificing a community to unbridled, endless,  always expanding mega development  represent good planning?

Compared to other modern democracies with policies that support strong stewardship over natural assets and stringent environmental regulations, Canada continues to lag behind.

Not only does Canada lag behind but it degrades the capacity of its ministries to protect our communities and natural resources. The Ministry of Natural Resources will have its budget slashed by $30 million over three years: In 2012  public programs and staff were reduced by $10M; in 2013 field staff were reduced by a further 10M, in 2014 policy analysts by $10M more.

In particular front line staff who do compliance work will have their numbers slashed as will those who produce maps of natural features including features that are on the endangered species lists putting land, water, fish, wildlife and heritage features at risk  More compliance reporting will be left to developers self reporting.

Risk management is largely being offloaded to proponents and owners as a part of a self regulation policy. That means very little government surveillance and monitoring is possible.  This sorry state has been already noted by some adjudicators in decisions that recognize that government inspectors can seldom visit a site more than once every 5 to 7 years and depend on the public to alert them to failures by operators to comply with regulations or site plans.

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