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Opposition to Melancthon, Ontario aggregate quarry

DAN PELTON correspondent

August 31, 2011 Opposition to the Highland Companies proposed mega quarry in the Township of Melancthon continues to mount as the quarry application enters into its next phases. Opponents of the 2,316-acre quarry application the largest quarry operation in Ontario history argue that the mega quarry will wreak havoc on the groundwater and aquifers that feed the headwaters of key Ontario rivers including the Credit, Humber and Grand Rivers. They also state it will destroy prime farmland and the trucks transporting the aggregate will be disruptive to local traffic and the environment. The term mega quarry refers to an aggregate quarry with reserves of over 150 million tonnes and an annual production capacity of at least 10 million tonnes. Proponents of the Melancthon proposal forecast demand for aggregate at about 186 million tonnes per year over the next 20 years. The 2007 State of the Aggregate Resource in Ontario Study (SAROS) states that since 1991 aggregate demand for high-grade aggregate across Ontario has outstripped supply by a 3-1 margin. Under current regulations, Highland has until March, 2013 to attempt to resolve the 2,050 objections filed under the aggregate act which includes concerns raised by ministries, municipalities and agencies, as well as non-government organizations and the general public. They may conduct additional fieldwork, amend reports and even change operating plans and conditions to resolve the objections. Highland would then be legally obliged to contact the objectors and outline the steps they have taken to resolve their concerns. The objectors, in turn, have 20 days from receipt of the correspondence to either withdraw their objections or confirm they are dissatisfied. If objections remained unresolved, the application is forwarded to the

Ontario Municipal Board for a hearing. While conceding that a quarry of such proportions could have an adverse effect on neighbouring residents, the SAROS report claims that the Melancthon quarry would still be more environmentally and logistically friendly than a series of smaller, farther-from-market quarries. With the latter, the report says there would be additional harmful effects such as increased greenhouse gases as well as the effects from the production and maintenance of transport vehicles, facilities and infrastructure. As well, the study maintains that significant government intervention would be required to change from using close-to-market sources of aggregate, including market interventions and compensation including incentives, expropriation and overriding municipal land-use controls. Quarry opponents have suggested other means of acquiring aggregate; including using recycled aggregate, or manufacturing it in abandoned underground mines. Moreen Miller, president of the Ontario Stone, Sand and Gravel Association, sees problems with both ideas. She maintains that waste mine rock might not have the necessary quality of virgin aggregate from a quarry. Construction aggregates need to meet very specific quality targets that ensure that the materials will be able to withstand the freeze/thaw effect of our Canadian climate, says Miller. (They) have high tensile strength capabilities, long term durability, and a host of other quality parameters that may not be available in all rock types. Currently, about seven per cent of aggregate used in Ontario is recycled. Miller says that the recycled material also has quality issues and its availability is not assured. To increase recycled material to 20 per cent of yearly provincial production would require an additional 21,580,000 tonnes. To put this in perspective, the massive demolition of Terminal One at Torontos Pearson International Airports produced just 450,000 tonnes. In order to increase our percentages, we would need to demolish 47 buildings, roads, or structures of equal size to Pearson Terminal 1

every year to increase to (20 per cent), points out Miller. In my opinion, this is not possible.