The glossary serves to clarify many words, terms and acronyms used by operators, proponents, “experts”, and the government in communicating issues related to the aggregate industry.
  • Above Water Table:
  • Aggregate: For natural resources extraction purposes, aggregate is defined as “gravel, sand…stone, limestone, dolostone…or rock”. In other words, it is almost any bulk mineral resource other than metal ore. Aggregate can be unconsolidated (gravel or sand that exists as separate particles), or it can be consolidated (solid rock). Consolidated aggregate is often broken up or crushed for use. The aggregates that concern us are gravel, sand and dolostone.
  • A.R.A.Ontario’s Aggregate Resources Act. This law controls gravel pits and quarries in Ontario. You can access the full ARA and related policy documents through the “Policy” link on this site.
  • A.R.O.P.S.: Aggregate Resources of Ontario, Provincial Standards, Version 1.0. This document gives details of requirements for pits and quarries, for licensing them and for reporting on them. Essential reading if you are trying to figure out if a proposed pit is legal according to Ontario law. Available for about $55 from Publications Canada, (416) 326-5300, 880 Bay St., Toronto.
  • Below Water Table:
  • E.B.R.: Environmental Bill of Rights:
  • E.C.O.: Environmental Commissioner of Ontario, which administers the Ontario Environmental Bill of Rights. Under the EBR, you can participate in ministry decisions about the environment and hold the government accountable for those decisions. You have the right to comment on environmentally significant government proposals, to seek permission to appeal a ministry decision, or to ask a ministry to review a law or investigate harm to the environment. If you think a pit is harming the environment, and you can’t get the MNR or the MOE (Ministry of Environment) to act, you should contact the ECO.
  • E.P.A.: Environmental Protection Act
  • Habitat: A habitat is the home of a species, plant or animal. Home is defined in a very broad sense, and includes the area or areas used by the species to live, feed and reproduce. This would include the physical features of that area including climate, elevation, topography, soil, water, exposure to the elements, etc., and all the other plants, animals and microorganisms in that area that affect the species.
  • M.N.R.F.Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry. Ontario ministry responsible for aggregate pits and quarries, and for enforcing the Aggregate Resources Act.
  • M.O.E.C.C.: Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change.
  • Official Plan (OP): Each Ontario governmental unit such as a county or township has an Official Plan which includes policy regarding aggregate pits and quarries. In many cases, before a new pit or quarry is allowed, the OP must be amended by Council to change zoning of the site. For example, see the Official Plan for Wellington County.
  • O.P.A. (Official Plan Amendment): an amendment to the Official Plan of a municipality.
  • O.M.B.The Ontario Municipal Board is an independent adjudicative tribunal that hears appeals and applications and resolves land use disputes under a variety of legislation. The Ontario government appoints Members to the OMB. Members include people from different areas of the province with diverse backgrounds such as lawyers, former elected officials, engineers, surveyors, planners and public administrators.
  • Ombudsman of Ontario: The Ombudsman’s job is to ensure the accountability of government through effective oversight of the administration of government services in the province … The Ombudsman investigates both individual and systemic complaints about the administration of provincial government services including complaints about Ontario government organizations including many tribunals.
  • Natural Heritage Reference Manuala guide for those who require additional information on technical issues relative to the application of Section 2.3 – Natural Heritage of the Provincial Policy Statement (PPS) (Table 1.1). The PPS provides policy direction on matters of provincial interest in municipal land use planning under the Planning Act.
  • Pit: A pit is an area of land from which unconsolidated aggregate (sand and/or gravel) is being excavated. Usually much smaller scale operations than quarries.
  • P.P.S.: The Ontario Provincial Policy Statement is issued under the authority of Section 3 of the Planning Act. It provides direction on matters of provincial interest related to land use planning and development, and promotes the provincial policy-led planning system.
  • Quarry: A quarry is an area of land from which consolidated aggregate (solid rock) is being excavated. This excavation often requires blasting and can go below the water table.
  • Rehabilitation: Also called restoration or reclamation. The ARA (see above) requires progressive rehabilitation. The ARA states: “Every licensee and every permittee shall perform progressive rehabilitation and final rehabilitation on the site in accordance with this Act, the regulations, the site plan and the conditions of the license or permit to the satisfaction of the Minister” (Section 48)
  • SilicosisSilicosis is caused by the inhalation of crystalline silica dust. Symptoms include breathlessness, weakness, chest pain, cough and excess sputum. Silicosis can be fatal, due to heart failure.
  • Species at risk: In Ontario, a species at risk is officially defined as “any plant or animal threatened by, or vulnerable to extinction.” A species becomes extinct when all the members of that species have died. There are several categories of risk officially recognized in Ontario. The two most serious categories are “endangered” and “threatened”. A species considered to be officially endangered is “any native species that is at risk of becoming extinct in Ontario.” A species considered to be officially threatened is “any native species that is at risk of becoming endangered in Ontario.” In Ontario, as in most of the world, the greatest problem for species at risk is the loss of habitat.
  • Wetlands: Wetlands are lands that are seasonally or permanently covered by shallow water, including lands where the water table is at or close to the surface. The abundant water favours the dominance of water plants or water-tolerant plants and aquatic or semi-aquatic animal communities. Wetlands may exist on their own, or as shoreline features of bodies of water such as lakes, rivers or streams. As mentioned above, wetlands may be seasonal-wet in the spring and early summer, but drying up later in the season. Such seasonal wetlands may not even be “wet” in the driest years.


Aggregate Anti-Glossary Purpose: In a war of words, it is wise to use words which accurately describe what you propose and oppose. In dealing with aggregate and other issues, whoever gets to define the terms, defines the debate. It is in your interest to use terms which the public understands, which aptly sum up the reasons to be for or against something, and which do not leave key considerations out of the debate. Here’s a start.

Preferred Term

Industry Term




While the industry claims that sanitary landfills are environmentally sound, science tells us they leak, dumping chemicals into the water table and pumping leachate into surface water.

Industrial reprocessing of aggregate

Recycling of aggregate

An industrial process, and dangerous to environmental and human health. Noise and dust produced by the grinding and blending are concerns as is the extension of the “interim” life of the pit or quarry beyond expectations. See also Interim Land Use.

Loss of prime farmland

Interim Land Use

Prime agricultural land is at record prices in Ontario, and of vital importance for crops and sustainability of food production.  See also Industrial Reprocessing and Industrial Land Used for Aggregate Extraction.  

Diminished health impact

Mitigation of health risk

Mitigation does not mean the elimination of environmental, social or health impacts. Note that health risks are not considered to be as important as health impact by the MECP. Communities should ask for “health impact” assessments.

Environmental degradation


On the issue of compliance, self-reporting is not the same as inspection. On occasion, the MECP will issue Environmental Compliance Approvals which may or may not meet community standards. Under new regulations, self-filing and self-reporting to MNRF will be extended.

Lake; or, Sludge pond, Settling Pond or Washing Pond as per the feature being described.


If a body of water has springs in the sides or bottom, natural flow into it or an ecological system, it should be called a lake so as not to confuse it with man-made settling ponds which are part of the process by pits and quarries to remove suspended particles aka grit or dust, from water. The removal of suspended particles from water used by aggregate sites before being dumped into watersheds is measured by the kill rates on trout fingerlings, a species sensitive to murkiness. Note that suspended particles are not the only threat.; Dissolved elements need to be measured. The MECP has claimed to have no definition of lakes versus ponds. Sludge ponds, settling ponds or washing ponds are part of the aggregate extraction process.



Aggregate advocates point to a very few rehabilitation projects often completed with public money and/or work by community or children’s groups while ignoring the vast majority of pits left for decades under licence or from before the current Act which have not seen rehabilitation. Restoration is not merely rewilding. The success of rehabilitation, e.g., to agricultural purposes, is contested by the National Farmers’ Union which points to lost soil fertility.

The Ontario Aggregate Research Council


A wing of OSSGA which accesses levies which otherwise might be paid to municipalities and which does some research into rehabilitation though most of it is not peer-reviewed.

Business Publications


Glossy magazines produced by the industry with generally laudatory comments on rehabilitation and/or other industry practices. Valid scientific research is peer-reviewed.



Where an application has been received by MNR, the industry uses this term which really means that the application is complete. There is no indication from the MNR that it is acceptable when this term is used loosely.

Posted Notice

Public Notice

Sign on a fence post, or an ad in a newspaper (print or electronic) about a project.

Public information

Consult the public

It is an expectation of the public that full consultations should accompany any new or expanded pit. There are strict requirements under the MNR on the timing of these, the people who should be involved and the process. This is worth following closely.

Airborne Contaminants


Dust in lay terms usually refers to that pesky stuff we brush off our furniture now and then, usually considered an annoyance. “Dust” in terms of aggregate operations refers to airborne contamination of the environment, and as such it should be reported to the MECP’s Spills Hotline. It results from unsuccessful mitigation efforts by building berms and/or planting trees alongside pits and quarries and/or track-out by trucks exiting the site. Recent research by Dr. Ray Copes and others points to the dangers posed to human, animal and environmental health by PM 2.5 fine particulate matter, the invisible component of dust. See also Mitigation, Berms

Dirt Piles


Strips of soil and subsoil are bulldozed to the edges of pits and quarries. These are intended to mitigate dust leaving the site and to prepare for eventual rehabilitation after the interim use of the lands. There are reports of materials being added to these during their construction or at the end of aggregate production.  See also Contaminated Soil

Contaminated Soil

Excess Soil

The extraction of aggregate leaves inviting holes which the excess soil industry eyes for disposal of contaminated dirt from post-industrial construction sites. Proximity to ground water is a major concern.  The Ontario Soil Regulation Task Force, which shares reciprocal membership with Gravel Watch has much expertise on this as well as the definition of Contaminated Soil vs. Hazardous Waste.

Industrial Land Used for Aggregate Extraction

Interim Land Use

Without sunset clauses, i.e., defined limits on the life of the operation after which a transition to the planned after-use is undertaken, there is no guarantee the lands will ever be recovered for promised rehabilitation to previous or compatible uses as often cited by site plans. For municipalities, the loss of revenues from land reclassification by MPAC can be a permanent concern. See also Restoration. Contaminated Soil, Dirt Piles