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New course on Aggregates Resources offered at the University of Waterloo


March 31, 2016
By Wayne Caston

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A new credit course – PLAN 474/674 – aggregate resources planning, development and management – was introduced in the fall term of 2015 at the University of Waterloo as an elective in the school of planning. The course exposes participants to a variety of topics associated with aggregate resources – important but contentious issues in planning and resource management in Ontario and elsewhere.

It is believed that PLAN 474/674 is the first of its kind in Ontario, and possibly in Canada. Financial support for the course was provided by The Ontario Aggregate Resources Corporation (TOARC), and is gratefully acknowledged.

Products produced by pits and quarries are critical to infrastructure and urban development, but are subject to a significant number of land use, environmental, transportation and other issues and probable conflicts. The course provides participants with exposure to many topics related to aggregate resources including: geology, economics, technical requirements for licensing, site plans, peer/technical reviews, management of aggregate resources, rehabilitation and post-rehabilitation after-uses.  

Initially, the students were introduced to a series of core topics related to aggregate resources – geology, economics, pit/quarry licensing requirements under Ontario’s Aggregate Resources Act (including required background studies, site plans and Planning Act requirements), interdisciplinary and policy issues, rehabilitation and after-use strategies, and provincial plans related to aggregate resources. Additional topics include conflicts and conflict resolution, critical/technical or peer review of aggregate resources development proposals, cumulative effects of multiple extractive operations, water resources issues related to pits and quarries, significant Ontario Municipal Board and Environmental Review Tribunal decisions regarding aggregate resources, and future issues in aggregate resources planning, development and management. Students were also exposed to a range of information sources, techniques and practices used in the evaluation of resources, development proposals and current management practices. Emphasis was placed on practical applications and “real world” issues. Among the topics discussed was “A Blueprint for Change: A proposal to modernize and strengthen the Aggregate Resources Act policy framework,” released in October 2015.

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Assignments for the course involved a series of required readings, group field reports, and an individual research project. There were one full-day and two part-day field investigations over the term. A total of seven sites were toured – active pit and quarry operations, rehabilitated lands with successful after-uses, and several pre-extractive properties for which licence applications were pending. The cooperation of aggregate producers involved in the 2015 field investigations is greatly appreciated.

PLAN 474/674 is currently aimed at senior undergraduate and graduate students with interests in environmental and rural/urban fringe planning, and in resources management. However, for current professionals, the course would be appropriate, after 2017, as an elective on the on-line and part-time graduate diploma in planning or the Master of Planning programs at the University of Waterloo. In 2016 and 2017, the course will be offered on-campus only, but is available to practitioners under a post-graduate non-degree admission policy. The course may be of specific interest to planning and resource management professionals working in regional planning, consulting, and in the aggregates industry itself.

Further information is available from Wayne Caston, PLAN 474/674 principal lecturer and course coordinator at awcaston@uwaterloo.ca, or from the school of planning (University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Ontario,  N2L 3G1).

Wayne Caston is an adjunct lecturer in the school of planning, faculty of environment, at the University of Waterloo. He is a Professional Geoscientist (P.Geo.) and a Fellow of Geoscientists Canada (FGC), as well as a Professional Planner (RPP) and Member of the Canadian Institute of Planning (MCIP). Wayne is the principal lecturer and course coordinator for PLAN 474/674 and can be reached at awcaston@uwaterloo.ca.