Proposed Changes to the Aggregate Resources Act
OFT recently reviewed and provided several recommendations to strengthen the policies within the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry’s proposed amendments to the Aggregate Resources Act.
All mineral aggregate operations in Ontario are subject to the Aggregate Resources Act. The Act regulates extractive activities of aggregate within Ontario, and outlines what best management practices should be employed on the sites both during and after extraction. For instance, the Act dictates that aggregate pits should be rehabilitated once they are decommissioned. This means that the lands are supposed to be returned to either the previous land use, or a different land use that is compatible with the surrounding areas (i.e.; wildlife habitat).
However, farmland that has aggregate extraction occur on it is rarely rehabilitated back to an agricultural condition. If extraction occurs below the water table, the land can never be rehabilitated back to agriculture. Even Ontario’s finite amount of prime agricultural land is lost to aggregate mining.
OFT believes that it is very important to provide recommendations on the proposed changes to the Aggregate Resources Act to help strengthen policy for farmland protection. At minimum, aggregate extraction on farmland takes the land out of production for decades, and at maximum, that agricultural land can be lost forever. Extractive activities that take place near agricultural operations can also adversely affect livestock health and crop production.
Based on this, our feedback suggested:
– That aggregate extraction be prohibited in all Specialty Crop Areas and prime agricultural areas.
– That Agricultural Impact Assessments become an application requirement for both new extraction sites and the expansion of existing aggregate operations.
– That haulage routes do not negatively impact agricultural operations.
– That farmland must be rehabilitated back to an agricultural condition of equivalent or improved quality once aggregate extraction ceases.
We believe that the review of the Aggregate Resources Act is a great opportunity for the Province to strengthen the policies for farmland protection and prevent the permanent loss of agricultural land to aggregate mining.