Aggregates are big business in Peterborough and the Kawarthas. We mine them, ship them, and consume them.
A new report from the Ontario Chamber of Commerce (OCC), commissioned by the Ontario Stone, Sand & Gravel Association, titled The Long Haul: Examining the Implications of Far-From-Market Aggregates examines the value, impact and implications of mining, hauling and consuming aggregates.
Aggregates include gravel, sand, clay, earth, shale, stone, marble, granite, and other materials. It is used directly in construction as well as in the production of products like cement and concrete. It is a core product in most construction and infrastructure projects.
In 2019, production of new aggregates was worth $1.7 billion in Ontario, paying out $806 million in labour income and employing 13,400 people.
Central eastern Ontario, an area that includes Peterborough and the Kawarthas and the surrounding areas to the east and north, produced 22 million tonnes of aggregates, contributing $222 million to our GDP and directly employing more than 1,500 people.
Very little can be built without aggregates, making it a major contributor to Ontario’s $51 billion construction industry (2019).
It’s a product that is required in large amounts. Its value is inherently tied to the cost of getting it to market.
The report makes the case for keeping aggregate production near where construction and industry need it. The further it is hauled from, the more expensive it gets, the larger its carbon footprint, and the more trucks that are needed to get it there.
The Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (GTHA) is dotted with quarries, but can’t keep up with its own supply needs. The GTHA consumes approximately 73 million tonnes of aggregate while producing only 25 million tonnes. This means that aggregate mining in areas like Peterborough and the Kawarthas plays a key role in not only our own development, but that of our larger neighbours.
Development in Ontario is not showing any signs of slowing. The GTHA is expected to consume 1.5 billion tonnes of aggregates by 2041. Our region is experiencing its own period of growth. The industry will continue to find efficiencies in production, recycling, and design, but demand for new product will continue. If quarries close or are not allowed to expand, aggregate consumers will simply buy it from further away.
The GTHA is increasingly relying on pits and quarries further away and can expect to exhaust all close-to-market aggregate production supply within the next 10 to 15 years.
The current average hauling distance for close-to-market production is 35 km. As those are exhausted, that average is expected to increase to 110 km (i.e. Peterborough to Toronto). This will increase the haulage cost from $5.92/tonne to $12.67 for a one-way trip. For a 32-tonne truck load, that’s a one-way increase of $216 per load. These costs will be passed on to builders, increasing the cost of things like homes, roads, and bridges.
Longer distances also mean trucks will not be able to make as many trips per day, requiring more trucks and more time driving. Sourcing aggregates further from market is expected to burn an additional 32.8 million litres of fuel, generating an extra 88,594 metric tonnes of CO2 emissions annually.
The report from the OCC is an examination of the industry and is not directly an advocacy item. What’s clear is the value of the industry, its integral role in our communities, and the implications for hauling aggregates from further distances – increased costs and pollution.
As our region grows and becomes more populated, conflict with pit and quarry operations will increase. There are legitimate concerns regarding dust, noise, air quality, water quality, and truck traffic. But simply saying “not in our backyard” is not going to be a helpful approach. Peterborough and the Kawarthas is a thriving aggregate producer for our own needs and those of our neighbours. We need to be proactive with this sector by addressing concerns, minimizing environmental impacts, and finding ways to integrate pit and quarry operations within our community.