Northern Ontario Aggregates Operations Seek to Enhance Biodiversity

The Ontario Aggregate Resources Corp. (TOARC), through the Management of Abandoned Aggregate Properties (MAAP) program, focuses on two important Aggregate Resources Trust purposes: the rehabilitation of legacy pits and quarries, and research relating to aggregate resource management, including rehabilitation.

To date, MAAP has rehabilitated nearly 850 ha (2,100 acres) of land, resulting in the expansion of habitats, enhancement of biodiversity, connection of fragmented habitat and an overall increase in ecological function. MAAP continues to develop its rehabilitation “toolbox” to ensure that the program is incorporating new and innovative methods on our sites and acknowledging when methods are no longer as successful in achieving rehabilitation goals.

Recently, MAAP has identified challenges in the rehabilitation of legacy aggregate sites in Northern Ontario and noted that a need for improved reclamation strategies in regions with challenging climates and where organic amendments are required.

MAAP reached out to rehabilitation groups at Collège Boréal and Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ontario, that have collaborated with industrial and government partners to address reclamation challenges at metal mining and smelter-impacted sites. Together, they have developed a research proposal, approved by TOARC’s board of directors, which will help answer key questions:

  • What is limiting reclamation in Northern Ontario aggregate sites?
  • What strategies can be employed to overcome those limitations?
  • How can we improve and enrich the end result as a functioning ecosystem?

In collaboration with industrial partners, Pioneer Construction, Ethier Sand and Gravel, and the local mining sector in Sudbury, the academic research team will generate new knowledge and expertise in the area of land reclamation, restoration and biodiversity.

“We are submitting an application to the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) and ideally will leverage industrial contributions to the research project with additional federal research support,” TOARC said. “Results from this research program will assist aggregate producers and MAAP to achieve enhanced rehabilitation success at Northern Ontario sites. It will also train student researchers who will be well equipped to help the aggregate and other related sectors take on new challenges in the future. The study is set to commence in the spring of 2021.”

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