Community groups and organizations battling aggregate operations in their communities are taking a strength in numbers approach through a new coalition.
The Reform Gravel Mining Coalition (RGMC) officially launched this week with a virtual meeting drawing in nearly a thousand supporters and interested parties.
“We’ve been amazed, I mean our launch event we were hoping to get maybe a few hundred people out,” said Graham Flint, RGMC co-chair. “We had 1,200 registered but 800 showed up and hung on with us for the full two hours.”
RGMC is first asking the province to put a pause on all new gravel pit licenses, approvals and amendments. Flint said from here they are looking for an independent panel commission to take a broad review of the provincial policies and the future of that industry.
Flint said he has a 20 year history in dealing with issues around gravel mining. He was the president of Gravel Watch Ontario for six years before retiring. That didn’t last long as he was soon asked to be part of RGMC.
“They tapped me on the shoulder and said ‘look we’re going to try and take this to the provincial level, we’re going to try to really raise the volume on this and build a broad coalition on that,’” Flint said.
Flint explained community groups across the province have been fighting specific gravel pits and individually these groups can get overwhelmed or lack the resources when fighting these applications.
RGMC steering committee member Doug Tripp, also the president of the Concerned Residents Coalition (CRC) who fought Rockwood’s Hidden Quarry, said the track record hasn’t been good for these issues when they reach the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal.
Despite the CRC’s efforts, the LPAT ruled in favour of the Hidden Quarry proponent granting conditional approval in Feb. 2020.
“What became apparent to us when we were involved with the Hidden Quarry case is that we were fighting the same fight that numerous other communities have fought,” Tripp said.
“Some of us realized for sure that continuing to do the same thing, community after community fighting the same fight, raising a ton of money to do it, fighting against big companies with deep pockets is a recipe for failure.”
Flint said the formal coalition partners are the Wellington Water Watchers, Environmental Defence, the Wilderness Committee and the Council of Canadians but there’s also more than 30 community groups that have signed up in support.
Flint acknowledged the timing of this campaign coincides with the upcoming provincial election but stressed they are not a political organization.
“So now’s the time to make sure that citizens of Ontario make good decisions about who they vote for, that we raise the issue of gravel mining so that they can factor that in as they decide,” Flint said.
Learn more about RGMC here.