The ‘CLOSE TO MARKET’ Mantra

Dedicated to Digging for Truth, Blasting the Myths, and Etching Reality in Stone.

We’re calling b*!!$@!t.

A recent news release from the Aikensville pit applicant, Capital Paving Inc. stated:

With already constrained government budgets and the continued loss of good quality, close to market aggregate reserves, it will be extremely difficult and costly to Ontario taxpayers to repair the province’s aging infrastructure if aggregate is required to be sourced from farther away”

 According to the State of the Aggregate Resources of Ontario Study (SAROS):

Historically, the most common reason for incorporating “close to market” policies has been to ensure aggregate materials were available to the areas of need as economically as possible.”

 The “close to market” mantra also appears in the Provincial Policy Statement (PPS) and Green Belt Act.

 But what exactly are the implications? …and…Does it really matter?

 In a conversation with a person in the Ministry of Transport a few years back a curious citizen asked a question. They wanted to know what the Ministry, or should we say the taxpayers, were paying for gravel for our road construction projects.

The response was that the questioner didn’t know what he was talking about.

The Ministry rep proceeded to explain that they do not get a breakdown of costs for a job, but just a quote to complete the entire project.

 The lowest price usually wins the bid.

 So, the Ministry gives no consideration as to where the aggregate comes from, whether sourced near or far!

 When bidding on a project, a Contractor considers many other variables that can produce a higher, or conversely, a lower quote.

 Variables such as:

Are the workers unionized?

What type of equipment is required?

Does the proposed project fit with other jobs underway?

What profit margin is the operator willing to work with?

Whether the contractor owns his own pit to pull resources from?

And so on….

 So, in essence, we could have aggregate material for a ministry job traveling past competing pits that are closer to the project, because the supplying pit operator has decided to provide a better price, and accept lower profits than a “close to market” operator.

 The aggregate industry pushes the “close to market” agenda.

But do they have any evidence that it actually benefits the taxpayer who pays?

Does it really save money … or just pad profits?

Does it reduce air pollution?

Is there any independent study showing the savings from using “close to market” materials?
Is there an Industry study showing that “close to market” is being utilized advantageously?

Would a contractor supply close to market materials if they were more expensive than materials he could purchase cheaper at a pit further away?

 Unless the Ministry of Transportation actually enforces “close to market” usage, the entire concept becomes a joke!

 

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So, should the Ministry mandate and legally enforce “close to market” usage?

 That would create quite a conundrum!

 By legally mandating “close to market” usage, the Ministry would be reducing competition by forcing the purchase of aggregate product from a smaller number of producers. There may even be a situation where only one operator in an area produces the required product; but being “close to market” they would be the only viable source.

Which places that operator in a monopoly situation, driving the cost of product up, not down!

 The “close to market mantra” does nothing but provide a reason for Pits and Quarries to open their operations ever closer to rural residential areas of Ontario.

 Who benefits the most?

The pit and quarry operators who can push the concept that we require the product from the backyards of Ontarians with rural residences.

 Who loses?

Any homeowner who is close enough to the pit or quarry to have their health and value of their home jeopardized.

 The “close to market” mantra may sound good, but what we really need are politicians and bureaucrats who make decisions that are sound, based on studies, evidence and fact.

 Not B#$$&%$t.

 

 

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Need … or Greed?

Dedicated to Digging for Truth, Blasting the Myths, and Etching Reality in Stone.

One of the more questionable aspects of Ontario’s Provincial Policy Statement (PPS) is the clause that prohibits anyone from asking if there truly is a NEED for more open pit aggregate mines – both pits and quarries. The PPS reads in Clause 2.5.2.1:  “Demonstration of need for mineral aggregate resources, including any type of supply/demand analysis, shall not be required …”
Since one of the main arguments repeatedly made by pit and quarry applicants is the alleged ‘NEED’ for more supply, it strikes us as bizarre that decision makers should be prohibited from responding with: “Oh really? We NEED more supply? Show us the evidence!” What kind of Alice in Wonderland world do we inhabit here? One side can talk incessantly about need but the other side “shall not”?

So we are asking “What is really going on here?”

Consider a few facts:

…    According to expert analyst Dr. L. Jensen, Phd. Geoscience: “… it will take … 208 years at present rates of consumption, to consume all the sand and gravel reserves under license in 2010. No doubt this 208 year supply has considerably increased with the additional 200 licenses and permits added to the inventory during the past 2 years.”… from a submission made to the ARA Review Committee, May 2012
…   The gravel industry, with help from their lobbyists at the OSSGA, has made a mass appeal of their property tax assessments, apparently successfully. The result will be that municipalities must REFUND and forego hundreds of thousands of dollars to wealthy pit and quarry owners. The tax burden presently shifted onto residential property owners from groups like this who receive favoured treatment amounts to $20 million annually in Wellington County alone, or $731 per property owner.
…  Despite dire predictions of ever-increasing need that accompany applications, Ontario aggregate production, which was 171 million tonnes in 2000, fell to 159 million tonnes in 2011. (from TOARC statistics)
…  Due to a failed quarry application near Carlisle Ontario, the applicant St. Mary’s Cement threatened to sue the province for costs incurred and loss of future revenues. The province has settled, costing Ontario taxpayers $15million! What a sweet deal! You apply for a pit and if you win you get to make $millions supplying aggregate to the province (taxpayers). If you lose, you get $millions for the loss of potential revenue (from the gravel you don’t have to supply). Yikes! Is this nuts, or are we nuts for putting up with it?
…  When an ordinary property owner seeks compensation from their ‘new neighbour’ – an open pit mine – for a drastic drop in the value of their property, the applicants, operators, and elected representatives all run and hide. Is there no ‘NEED’ for wealthy pit operators to pay compensation for what are often devastating losses due to their ‘needed’ operations?
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So again we ask is it NEED or GREED at work here? And why should we be prevented from asking what the needs of the various parties actually are?

Rage Against the Machine

Dedicated to Digging for Truth, Blasting the Myths, and Etching Reality in Stone.

We received another provocative email the other day from some friends of ours. We love it when we get emails that get our blood boiling. Keep ‘em coming!

It seems that although the legislature was shut down by McGuinty, some of his Ministries are still hard at work ignoring the ordinary people of Ontario.

Minister Gravelle from the MNR has decreed, with full support from the Aggregate Industry, (and now the Niagara Escarpment Commission!*) that recycling is just a rubber stamp away from your local pit and quarry.

(*You can reference the changes made by the NEC in this link, pages 9 and 10.)

This change is being justified as ‘something the public demands’.

Recycling of aggregate materials is supposed to reduce the “need” for more pits producing virgin material. But when ordinary citizens ask if more pits are actually ‘needed’ they are told that they simply can’t ask such questions … it’s against the law according to the Provincial Policy Statement (PPS)!

So first, let’s review some facts, and how our now-absentee masters are being led by the nose down the gravel road …

1.      We have over 6,500 pits and quarries in operation in Ontario right now. Allowing recycling is supposed to reduce consumption of ‘virgin’ materials. So do you suppose this might stop the opening of new pits and quarries? Hardly. The PPS is under review, and must change to take into consideration our current abundant supply of materials. But asking the ‘do we need more’ question is still prohibited!

2.      Recycling is an industrial operation that does not belong in a mining environment.

3.      Because of the potential for mis-handling of the various materials, recycling will require oversight, something the MNR has proven they will not, or cannot do, given their current mandate and personnel resources. So again, it will be left up to the aggregate mine operators to police themselves, something many of them have repeatedly done very poorly.

4.      Dust control in pits and quarries is always an issue. Do we really believe that increasing the polluting fumes from machinery, and toxic dust from the operations is a good idea? Processing more material – some of it possibly very toxic – in facilities and under conditions that were never intended for such, seems simply foolish, or worse.

5.      Leachates from asphalt and other contaminated materials will make their way into our water table. It is unavoidable when you drop this tainted rubble two meters from the aquifer, on porous soil.

6.      Furthermore, who will be inspecting the materials coming in for recycling? We know the MNR inspectors can’t do the job. Then who? Where are the regulations and rules designed for this new policy? It’s all left up to the Aggregate Resources Act, which was never intended to deal with industrial recycling facilities.

7.      When applying for a license to open a new pit or quarry, the operator and MNR agree that it will be an ‘interim land use’. Adding a recycling operation will obviously increase the life span of a pit. It seems this creates another way to extend an operation indefinitely and avoid rehabilitation, virtually forever.

To characterize the push for recycling as something the Ontario public wants is a bit of a stretch.

Does ‘the public’ want more recycling?   …. Absolutely.

Do they want expanded industrial operations, with more huge trucks coming and going from their neighbourhood pit forever?  …. Absolutely not!

So we’ve asked just how it’s been determined that industrial recycling in gravel pits represents ‘the public’s wishes’. The only answer we’ve heard is that there are Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO’s) and special interest groups voicing their opinions.

Well, DUH … is it any surprise that the Ontario Stone Sand and Gravel Association (OSSGA) might lobby the government, claiming to represent ‘the public interest’?  But …What about input from groups like Gravel Watch, who more genuinely represent the public interest – and WITHOUT the taint of ties to Industry! Have they been heard? Apparently NOT.

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Industrial recycling operations should be located in industrial areas, not in open pit mines that are often located in rural residential areas.

But recycling is just one part of a bigger picture. It must be implemented with a comprehensive and well thought out plan. As it impacts the future of aggregate mining, it must deal with questions of ‘need’, resource life-cycle management, transportation, alternative materials, and full cost financial accounting . To hand recycling responsibility to the MNR and their aggregate industry friends without such thorough consideration is dangerously short-sighted.

Once again, the MNR and Minister Gravelle appear to have demonstrated a lack of understanding of their portfolio responsibilities, and once again, the aggregate tail seems to be wagging the dog.

In short, the MNR’s handling of this issue seems superficial and inadequate, serving the wishes of their cronies at the expense of ordinary citizens!

Is this acceptable? What can be done? Are ordinary citizens willing to do anything about it? Who owns this province anyway? … You? … or the politicians and their ‘insider’ friends?

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So, since you don’t have preferred access to the decision-makers, we suggest it’s time to call, email and write your MPP, to tell them that weakening the Niagara Escarpment protections is completely unacceptable.

Call, email and write Minister Gravelle and all opposition critics. Try to be civil, which might be difficult, and tell them it is time the aggregate industry stopped dictating policy in Ontario – starting with this recycling-in-pits fiasco.

Call, email and write your local newspapers and news web sites. Tell them these sorts of policies are bad for our province.

It’s time for a concerted effort to send the message to OUR elected officials that we will be Silent No More.

After all, they are supposed to be working for US!

A Joke … or a Gag?

Dedicated to Digging for Truth, Blasting the Myths, and Etching Reality in Stone.

So they set up special committees to review the Aggregate Resources Act (ARA) and Provincial Policy Statement (PPS), announced ‘public hearings’ and asked for citizen input, appearing as if they would seriously consider all submissions, and make revisions accordingly.

Some people happen to have spent a couple of decades studying the issues and are as close to being an ‘expert’ as can be. So they asked to appear before the ARA committee to make an oral presentation, and made written submissions.

Were they invited to appear or were they ignored?

They were ignored.

There were several more hearings scheduled so they politely asked once again.

Again they were ignored.

WHY?

Did those in charge really want to hear from knowledgeable people, or just from those they might agree with, or who can more easily be dismissed?

We may never know.

The hearings are finished and the committee is supposed to be carefully considering all the submissions, both oral and written, that were put before it.

That’s how it was supposed to work, and that’s what we’re paying for!ratsleave ship

But our Premier and his party have abandoned ship, taken the whole crew with him, and sunk the good ship ‘Legislature’.

So – What is happening to all the recommendations submitted in these two reviews?

– What is being done to remedy the many current problems with the way the current ARA is being administered by the Ministry of natural Resources (MNR)?

– What is being done to head off the threat that existing pits and quarries might be used as industrial recycling plants and potentially toxic landfills?

– What is being done to expose the distortion contained in the SAROS reports, where it suggests we are in the midst of an aggregate crisis.

– What is being done about questionable or non-existent justification for the industry-biased ‘close to market’ and ‘no questions allowed regarding need’ provisions of the current PPS?

– How can we protect ourselves from erosion of the Oak Ridges Moraine Act, Greenbelt Regulations, and Niagara Escarpment legislation that might permit ever more aggregate to be mined in these ‘protected’ areas?

In short, how can we get our high-priced ‘representatives’ to go back to work and actually earn their keep?

Are we being ‘gagged’ or is this just a bad joke?