What’s wrong with the current application process for new gravel mining sites in Ontario?

Gravel Mining is not a benign activity. It destroys the natural environment and changes communities forever. The permitting process for gravel mining is tilted in favour of the aggregate extraction industry1, a sector dominated by multinational corporations headquartered far away from the damage they cause. 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.

Will a moratorium on new gravel mining approvals mean developments that use gravel are postponed? For example, will Ontario be able to build transit and a denser urban footprint if there is a moratorium?

The government of Ontario has already authorized the gravel mining industry to extract thirteen times more gravel each year than is required to meet long term average annual consumption.

How much additional land is consumed every year on average by gravel mining?

Gravel mining consumes an average of 5,000 additional acres of land in Ontario each year. That’s a land area equivalent to two of the former proposed Melancthon mega-quarries each year.2

When gravel mining destroys farmland, can the farmland be restored to its previous productivity?

As stated by the National Farmers Union of Ontario (NFU-O): “Humans are simply unable to fully recover the agricultural and biodiversity values and ecological functions, formed over the centuries, that are lost when aggregate extraction proceeds."3

What are some examples of the unfair nature of the application process and the undesirable outcomes?

Mount Nemo: After an eight-year process, involving millions of taxpayer’s dollars, a gravel mining application was denied in October 2012 by the Ontario Office of Consolidated Hearings. Seven years later Nelson Aggregate have applied for two new quarries. One of these sites is in almost exactly the same place as the site denied in 2012.

Acton Quarry: The recently licensed, now dormant (since 2019) Dufferin / CRH Aggregates site in Acton Ontario is licensed to produce 4 million tonnes of gravel per year. This is 2.5 times the amount requested in applications for new gravel mining sites by James Dick Construction Ltd., located within 21 kilometres of the existing Dufferin site. (Rockwood Hidden Quarry 700,000 tonnes, interim approval; proposed Campbellville Quarry 900,000 tonnes)

Proposed Hallman Pit: There are seven existing pits located on the south side of Witmer Road, across the road from the proposed Hallman Pit. The 200,000 tonnes per year extracted from these existing seven pits is only 10% of the total licensed capacity (approximately 2 million tonnes per year). Despite this existing supply Rick Esbaugh seeks approval to mine up to 750,000 tonnes of aggregate annually at the proposed Hallman Pit. This is almost four times as much gravel as is produced every year from the seven existing pits.

How will a moratorium on new gravel mining approvals help Ontario mitigate the effects of the climate crisis?

The climate crisis requires society to reduce carbon emissions and to conserve water and natural habitat. Gravel is the feedstock to new highways and urban sprawl. Most aggregates are used to manufacture cement and construct buildings, roads, bridges, sewers, and other infrastructure. The cement industry produces 8% of global carbon emissions — as a country, it is the third largest global emitter of CO2.4

What opportunities are created if Ontario says “yes” to a moratorium on new gravel mining approvals?

Ontario will have the opportunity to chart a new path forward for gravel mining which:

  • Protects groundwater and farmland
  • Increases the weight of local perspectives in land use planning
  • Ensures long term supplies of a finite resource
  • Honours treaties with Indigenous Nations and obligations as prescribed in the Canadian Constitution and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
  • Prevents greater climate chaos


1. http://cielap.org/pdf/AggregatesStrategyOntario.pdf, p.15

2. https://www.inthehills.ca/2011/06/melancthon-mega-quarry-by-the-numbers

3. https://nfuontario.ca/new/fr/comments-on-ero-019-1679-ero-019-1680

4. https://www.carbonbrief.org/qa-why-cement-emissions-matter-for-climate-change

We acknowledge that we work on the Treaty and traditional territory of the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation, Treaty 13 and the Williams Treaties, the Treaty and traditional territory of Williams Treaty Nations (Alderville, Hiawatha, Curve Lake, Hiawatha and Scugog Island, Beausoleil, Georgina Island and Rama Island First Nations). Ancestrally this territory was home to other First Nations including the Wendat, Haudenosaunee, and the Pentun peoples. Today, this land is now home to many diverse First Nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples. In addition, our work takes place nationwide, across all the Treaty and unceded lands of Turtle Island. We recognize, respect and strive to reconcile the inherent Aboriginal and Treaty rights of all the Indigenous peoples as upheld within the UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Constitution of Canada.