highway 413

New Ontario highways require a shocking amount of gravel mining and people are worried

Whether its his methods of pushing through new buildings with less municipal consultation using Minster's Zoning Orders or planning more infrastructure that many find unnecessary, Premier Doug Ford has a way of getting major projects done in Ontario that not all residents agree with.

Though it's hard to argue that places like Toronto are in desperate need of more (preferably affordable) housing and that more public transit is often a great forward-looking investment for a city's future, two of the province's latest proposals are facing more backlash than most: New highways the 413 and the Bradford Bypass.

The first, also known as the GTA West Highway, is a six-lane artery proposed along nearly 60 km through Halton, Peel and York Regions, arching north of Toronto to connecting existing Highways 401 and 407 in Mississauga to the 410 in Brampton and the 400 in Vaughan.

The second would provide a straight cut north of King Township and south of Bradford West Gwillimbury, running from the 400 in the west to the 404 in the east.

There is a ton of opposition to both, from residents, environmental groups, and local politicians.

Generally, not many seem to be fans of the planned locations of the routes and the impact they will have on the environment, slashing through greenbelt protected areas, farmland, and natural habitats only to save potentially seconds off of drivers' commutes and serve to encourage more cars on the road.

There's also a new wave of concerns about the less obvious damage done to the province, which will be farther reaching than just the site of the roads themselves: the mines that will be necessary to source to massive amount of gravel needed for the initiatives. 

As noted by the Star, around 70 per cent of towns in the province have at least one quarry for construction aggregate like gravel, and given the demand spawned by projects like the 413 and Bradford Bypass, more mines are popping up and a number of the 5,000-or-so existing ones have applied for expansion — such as the one in Burlington, which plans to grow by a whopping 78 hectares.

As is the Ford way of making Ontario "open for business" and growing the economy, the sector is one of many that is seeing application processes streamlined over the heads of impacted municipalities themselves.

The issue is so concerning that organizations such as the Reform Gravel Mining Coalition have formed, their main goal to put a pause on new gravel operation licenses given that the government has already green lit enough gravel extraction to produce a total of a staggering two billion tonnes, which is 13 times more than what is currently used for projects per year, according to the coalition.

Councils such as that of Halton Hills, too, have gotten behind the idea of a moratorium on the industry, as well as more consultations with the municipalities and residents affected.

Halton Hills' mayor is also asking for more policies and procedures to be put in place for mining under the water table, more criteria and processes added to determine the need for new gravel licenses, and compensation for communities for the costs and impacts.

"The provincial government allows the gravel mining industry to consume on average an additional 5,000 acres of land each year. Mining destroys the existing environment and damages communities — while paying less property tax than some single families do," a petition from Reform Gravel Mining reads.

"Gravel mining accelerates the climate crisis, by feeding sprawl, highways, cement production, transportation and other massive causes of greenhouse gases," reads the petition.

"It's time to honour treaties and obligations with Indigenous Nations, prevent more climate destruction, protect groundwater and farmland, and give the communities dealing with these sites more say in how land use is decided."

Lead photo by

Gary Davidson

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