This is a guest blog by Claire Malcolmson, the Responsible Aggregate consultant for Environmental Defence

Changes in government bring uncertainty, and the aggregate (sand, stone and gravel) file is no exception. At this point, we have no idea whether or not Ontario’s new provincial government is going to be tough on the aggregate industry. It’s a reminder that we shouldn’t always rely on governments to make progress.

In that context, let’s take a moment to appreciate the positive momentum we have in Ontario’s aggregate industry with the Cornerstone Standards Council’s (CSC) Responsible Aggregate Standard. It’s a good example of making environmental gains outside of the regulatory environment. It seems an appropriate time to explore the benefits of this kind of change-making.

Quarry aggregate. Cornerstone Standard

CSC convened a multi-stakeholder panel to create a voluntary certification standard that reduces aggregate activity’s impacts on communities and the environment, and that consults with and compensates those communities with some benefits. Aggregate site operators can demonstrate that they have met the Standard’s requirements through an extensive audit and become CSC certified sites. CSC now has certified five pits and quarries in Ontario, including the most recently certified, CBM’s Codrington Pit, between Rice Lake and Belleville.  CSC anticipates that its certified sites will provide 25 percent of the aggregate supply in the Greater Golden Horseshoe by 2020.

The site operators that achieved CSC certification have a common interest in becoming better neighbours and land stewards.  For CBM’s Codrington pit, this is demonstrated by addressing transportation needs through the upgrading of County Rd. 30; building an internal haul road with significant separation distances from surrounding neighbours to reduce any potential impacts; beautifying the site with a substantial investment in landscaping and signage; and rehabilitating historic extraction areas of the Archer Pit, allowing it to blend seamlessly into the natural landscape.

The communities that have CSC certified sites in their backyards have good things to say about CSC certified operations. The Mayor of Brighton (near Codrington), Mark Walas, says that CBM’s commitments to operate in a socially and environmentally responsible manner help Brighton meet its employment and healthy-lifestyle goals.

Aggregate Gravel Cornerstone StandardNear Dufferin’s CSC certified Acton quarry, Town of Erin Councillor Jeff Duncan spearheaded Erin’s decision to purchase CSC certified aggregate when locally available and competitive. Councillor Duncan says, “Supporting CSC Standards from a local municipal perspective is important because I see it as the evolution of the aggregate industry. CSC will bring it in line with other resource-based sectors, such as food production, fishing practices and the timber trade, to name a few, that have implemented similar programs. Municipal support of CSC can help push the boundaries of better local resident engagement and communication over the life of an operation. I hope this will [in of itself] provide a mechanism to improve operations and practices.”

We should join the elected officials of affected communities and give these companies credit for cautiously steering the aggregate sector in a direction that is more sensitive to communities and the environment. These companies are not perfect all of the time, but we should recognize that they are voluntarily making the operational changes required by the Cornerstone Standard.

CSC is one of those programs that demonstrates how stakeholders working together can make progress outside of the regulatory environment. Now, in a climate of uncertainty and changing government priorities, we should seize opportunities to work with everyone that can help move the needle on reducing the impacts of aggregate extraction.

To read more about CSC certification and certified pits and quarries go to www.CornerstoneStandards.ca

To learn about municipal procurement of CSC material, contact info@environmentaldefence.ca

Claire aggregate consultantClaire Malcolmson is a seasoned campaigner who cut her teeth on an Environmental Defence partnership that championed the Lake Simcoe Protection Act. Claire also led campaigns for the Great Lakes Protection Act, and for changes to campaign contribution rules for municipal election candidates under “Campaign Fairness”.  She lives in Innisfil, Lake Simcoe, with her husband and wee boys.

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