Operating a quarry can be a lucrative business or even a great opportunity to extract aggregate for personal projects. After all, quarries are crucial in supplying the raw materials we need for construction and infrastructure development, and aggregate extraction is a thriving industry in Ontario. Before you break ground, however, it’s essential to understand Ontario’s quarry regulations to ensure you aren’t running afoul of the applicable regulations. 

Below, we’ll provide a high-level overview of quarry regulation in Ontario: namely, what qualifies as a quarry and what steps you’ll need to take to operate one confidently. 

What Qualifies as a “Quarry”? 

Under Ontario’s Aggregate Resources Act, RSO 1990, c A.8, a quarry is defined as land or land under water from which any of the following materials (“aggregates”) are or have been excavated: 

  • Gravel
  • Sand
  • Clay
  • Earth
  • Shale
  • Stone
  • Limestone
  • Dolostone
  • Sandstone
  • Marble
  • Granite

Other materials may also be considered “aggregates” under the Act. 

Note that land or land under water excavated for a building or structure on the excavation site does not qualify as a quarry. 

Quarry Regulation in Ontario

The Ontario government regulates pits and quarries by issuing licences, permits, and changes to existing approvals and by regulating how quarries are operated (including inspections, responding to complaints, and enforcing compliance with regulations). 

Below, we’ll provide a brief introduction to common quarry regulation issues in Ontario, including obtaining licences, permits, and changes to approvals. Keep in mind that the information below intends to provide a bird’s eye view of the process of obtaining quarry licences and permits and is not a complete guide to the application process. 

When Are Quarry Licences and Permits Not Required? 

Depending on the circumstances, you may not have to obtain a licence or permit to operate a quarry under the Aggregate Resources Act, RSO 1990, c A.8. For example, you may not need a licence or permit if: 

  • You are an individual, the registered owner of the land on which the quarry resides, and you only produce aggregate for personal use; or
  • You operate a registered farm, and your business owns the land on which the quarry resides (or you have written permission from the owner) or the property where the pit is located is used for farming purposes during quarry operations. 

Obtaining a Quarry Licence in Ontario 

If you plan to operate a quarry on private land, you must obtain a Class A or Class B licence, depending on the aggregate amount removed annually. A Class A licence is required if more than 20,000 tonnes of aggregate is removed annually, while a Class B licence is required if removing 20,000 tonnes or less. 

Formal Requirements for Quarry Licences

In addition to the required application, persons applying for a Class A or Class B licence must include site plans and technical reports. Applicants may also be required to meet certain notification and consultation requirements. 

Specifically, applicants who intend to operate a quarry in an area that is not a remote location must provide notice of their application to bordering landowners, publish the notice in a local newspaper or online source (depending on availability), and post a visible notice sign at the boundary of the proposed quarry.

Once the applicant’s notice requirements have been fulfilled, they must engage in public consultation. This process can be lengthy and involves holding a public information session, connecting with interested parties, and receiving feedback (and, potentially, formal objections to the permit). A summary of the consultation and decision process can be found on the Ontario government’s “Aggregate resources” page

Obtaining a Quarry Permit in Ontario

If you plan to operate a quarry on Crown land or extract Crown-owned aggregate or topsoil, you must obtain an aggregate permit. 

The process for obtaining an aggregate permit is similar to the process for obtaining a licence outlined above, though with some variations and exceptions. More detailed guidance can be located in Ontario Regulation 244/97

Other Approvals Required for Quarry Licences or Permits

Keep in mind that, depending on the nature and location of the quarry, you may be required to obtain approval from other government entities. For example, municipal land use controls may apply if the quarry is within a municipality. Or, if the quarry is located in or near an endangered species habitat, approval (by way of a permit) may be required to engage in excavation. 

As every licence and permit application is highly fact-specific, speak with an experienced environmental lawyer for guidance on your obligations. 

Operating Requirements for Quarry Licences and Permits

Quarry licence and permit holders must comply with minimum operating rules outlined in Ontario Regulation 244/97 unless an exemption applies. These rules include safety, security, storage, operations, and rehabilitation requirements.

Additionally, quarry licence and permit holders must complete an annual compliance assessment report providing information on compliance with the Aggregate Resources Act, RSO 1990, c A.8, regulation, site plan, and conditions on the licence or permit. 

Amendments to Site Plans, Licences, or Permits

At any time, a licence or permit holder can apply to make changes to their licence or permit. 

If the amendment is insignificant (for example, updating the licensee’s name and contact information or adding a temporary structure to the site), the licence or permit holder can obtain an amendment without the ministry’s approval. 

If, however, the proposed amendment will result in significant changes to the operation or rehabilitation of a site, additional notification and consultation steps may be required in addition to ministry approval. 

Conclusions on Quarry Regulation in Ontario

As we explored above, quarry regulation in Ontario requires operators to obtain a licence or permit (as the case may be) for operations. Here, prospective applicants often have to contend with a lengthy and challenging process and, depending on the circumstances, may need to collaborate with many stakeholders. By taking the time to understand your obligations under Ontario’s quarry regulations, you’ll set your quarry up for success and minimize the risk of application difficulties. 

Experienced Environmental Law and Municipal Law Lawyers Serving Ontario

Navigating the rules and regulations relating to environmental operations can be extremely challenging and fact-specific. At Tierney Stauffer LLP, our lawyers use their extensive environmental and regulatory law experience to provide you with practical and effective advice on environmental and regulatory matters. We represent clients in a wide range of matters and will represent their interests in a dispute, if necessary. To speak with an experienced environmental law lawyer, call us at 1-888-799-8057 or online


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