Rock to Road

Features Columns Education
Commentary: Letter from Alberta


June 11, 2009
By Andy Bateman


Topics

This issue features the Susan Lake sand & gravel operation, located in Alberta’s oil sands development region north of Fort McMurray. There are a number of interesting aspects to this operation, not least of which is its unusual business model. The property is owned by the Alberta Government and managed by Athabasca Minerals Inc. in accordance with the Alberta Aggregate (Sand and Gravel) Allocation Policy for Commercial Use on Public Land.

This issue features the Susan Lake sand & gravel operation, located
in Alberta’s oil sands development region north of Fort McMurray. There
are a number of interesting aspects to this operation, not least of
which is its unusual business model. The property is owned by the
Alberta Government and managed by Athabasca Minerals Inc. in accordance
with the Alberta Aggregate (Sand and Gravel) Allocation Policy for
Commercial Use on Public Land. 

The policy states that “A specific site may be operated as a public pit
where Sustainable Resource Development determines that it is in the
public, industry, and/or community interest (e.g., a highly competitive
market area with confirmed scarcity of resource). A pit manager will be
selected through a Request for Proposal (RFP) process. The successful
proponent (company or individual) will be responsible for operating the
pit and making aggregate available to all operators. An example is the
Susan Lake public pit near Fort McMurray.”

Many of the companies who are currently embroiled in the licensing
process elsewhere could probably make a solid case for additional
aggregate reserves in “a highly competitive market area with confirmed
scarcity of resource.” In most jurisdictions however, the private
sector still assumes all of the risk and expense in finding and
licensing reserves, often against increasingly sophisticated objector
groups whose primary goal is to make the applicant go anywhere but
here.

By contrast, the purpose of the Alberta policy is to “allocate
aggregate (sand and gravel) for commercial use on public lands in a
fair, comprehensive and timely manner that optimizes benefits for
Albertans.” An ambitious goal indeed, but one which by all accounts has
been successfully achieved.