Stepping Stone Toward Sustainable Development: Improving Environmental Assessment of Mineral Aggregate Resources

CIM Edmonton 2008
Abstract Approximately 170 million tonnes of mineral aggregate (sand, gravel, and crushed stone) are produced in Ontario every year. About 60% of the mineral aggregate is transformed into public infrastructure (e.g., roads, schools, and sidewalks). Well constructed and maintained public infrastructure is essential to the quality of life of Ontarians and important for the wellbeing of the economy. Unfortunately, extracting, processing and transporting mineral aggregates, and building and maintaining public infrastructure, have negative environmental and social impacts (e.g., dust and CO2 emissions, water pollution, noise, unsightliness, and habitat modification).

We are living in a time of increased public concern about the health of communities and the environment. Environmental assessment (EA) may be a key tool for assessing whether new mineral aggregate pits/quarries should be opened and public infrastructure projects constructed, considering the impacts associated with these projects. This study assesses and compares the effectiveness of Ontario’s Aggregate Resources Act, Environmental Assessment Act, Municipal Class Environmental Assessment, and Class Environmental Assessment for Provincial Transportation Facilities. Evaluation criteria from the EA literature and policy sciences define effectiveness for this assessment. Overall, the four EA policies are mediocre performers. Recommendations for improving the EA policies are presented to encourage discussion about how better EA might achieve a primary goal- sustainable development of non-renewable mineral aggregate resources.
Keywords: Sustainable development, Environmental assessment, Evaluation, mineral aggregate
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