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Group aims to create standards for environmentally responsible aggregate extraction sites in Ontario

Jul, 28 2011

(Canada) -- The name SERA might not mean much to many aggregate operators in Ontario, but that is about to change.

SERA, which stands for Socially and Environmentally Responsible Aggregate, is a not-for-profit group developing a set of voluntary standards for aggregate extraction. It released a draft of those standards in June, and hopes that with input from the industry and other stakeholders to have standards in place by 2013 for Ontario aggregate operations, says Lorne Johnson, executive director of SERA.

The standards will cover such issues as quarry siting and rehabilitation, extraction methods, processing and use. The objective is to certify socially and environmentally responsible aggregate sites that meet or exceed global standards, he says.

For years, the process of licensing aggregate operations has been characterized by lengthy and expensive conflicts. Will standards eliminate that? SERA believes so.

Aggregate producers with the certification standard stand to have better relationships with local municipalities and approval agencies — a big plus when expansion plans are in the works, says Johnson.

Johnson adds the standards will help ensure Ontario maintains a reliable supply of aggregate materials while protecting the province’s natural landscape.

SERA was established through a collaborative effort of Holcim (Canada) Inc. and Environmental Defence Canada, leaders in the aggregate and environmental fields, respectively.

The group is run by directors from the community, the aggregate industry, environmental and non-governmental NGOs.

Holcim will offer aggregate sites for the field-testing of the draft standards. Dufferin Aggregates, Holcim’s aggregate division, will pursue certification of all sites.

While there is no guarantee that the sites will all meet certification standards, Johnson is pleased with Dufferin’s objective. He says SERA needs more support like it from other aggregate operators.

Other players in the aggregate industry are cautious partly because of a belief that the standards will be set without enough industry input, he points out.

They needn’t be. The draft standard is simply a starting point, Johnson says, adding SERA expects significant input from aggregate operators throughout the region.

The Canada Green Building Council is one of several high profile groups supporting the draft standards.

A new study by BuildGreen Solutions, one of Canada’s leading sustainable development services companies, of international aggregate standards indicates that the Draft SERA Standards are the most comprehensive aggregate extraction standards anywhere.

Municipalities stand to gain from the standards because they allow municipal officials more input on issues related to siting and best practices, such as noise and dust control.

By: Don Procter

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