OFT Invited to Participate in Ontario’s Aggregate Resources Act Review

Ontario Farmland Trust has been invited to participate in a Rehabilitation Information Working Group as part of the next phase of the Aggregate Resources Act review.

In March 2012 the Standing Committee on General Government, an all-party committee of the Ontario legislature, was asked to review the Aggregate Resources Act and subsequently tabled its consensus report in the Legislature in October 2013.

The government outlined a collaborative approach to exploring solutions with key stakeholders and Aboriginal communities and organizations. Over the coming weeks discussions will be taking place with these key stakeholders to help inform changes related to:

• The application processes for new pits and quarries, and changes to existing
sites;
• Removal of barriers and creation of incentives to increase the use of recycled
aggregate materials;
• Assessing impacts to water resources, including how to incorporate cumulative
impact assessments, through our water technical group;
• Information resources to support better rehabilitation, through our rehabilitation
working group;
• Assessing impacts on agricultural resources, ensuring effective agricultural
rehabilitation and performance monitoring, through our focus group on
aggregates and agriculture; and,
• Increasing and standardizing fees equitably to support the sustainable
management of aggregate resources.

The Rehabilitation Information Working Group will gather existing and available information (e.g., research, best practices) related to aggregate site rehabilitation.

The recommendation regarding agricultural land and aggregates in the consensus report states, “The Ministry of Natural Resources in its approval and administration of aggregate sites located on prime agricultural/and (as defined in the Provincial Policy Statement), or on other agricultural lands that were under cultivation prior to aggregate extraction, should ensure, wherever practical, the phased progressive rehabilitation of these sites and their expeditious return to agricultural production. Rehabilitative measures shall act to restore land, where practical, to agricultural capability(ies) or production equal to or higher than its capability(ies) or production prior to extraction.”

OFT has provided input regarding agricultural land and aggregate extraction as follows, “Aggregate is seen as an ‘interim’ land use in the PPS, with the possibility of rehabilitation back to agriculture. In many cases, however, mining occurs below the water table, flooding the site and making it impossible to return to farming use. There have also been thousands of sites that have been abandoned without rehabilitation. For these reasons, OFT urges the province to prohibit aggregate activities in all Specialty Crop Areas, prevent below water table extraction in prime agricultural areas, and require strict rehabilitation of all pits and quarries. There needs to be a greater balance between the protection of aggregate resources and the protection of farmland. Unlike aggregate, farmland is a perpetual resource that is capable of producing food forever and sustaining one of most important sectors of Ontario’s economy: agriculture. We need to recognize Ontario farmland as the unique and strategic resource it is, and ensure all policy is designed to prevent further loss of this valuable resource.”

These recommendations are in line with what farm organizations in Ontario are asking for as well. See more here from the Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario.

OFT looks forward to continuing the dialogue of achieving a greater balance between aggregate development and farmland protection as we participate in the Rehabilitation Information Working Group.

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