Update on the Alexis v Alberta Court Decision Go back

Monday, June 22, 2020

In early May, the Alberta Court of Appeal provided a ruling affecting gravel pits. This decision was rendered in relation to the Big Molly frac sand operation in Lac St Anne County.

What you should (still) know

  • The decision means that under the Environmental Protection & Enhancement Act, there is a strong possibility that gravel pits would have to be considered quarries.
  • Thus, any new applications and amendments to Alberta Environment & Parks would need to be evaluated as a quarry.
  • At present, there is a regulation and policy void for quarry development as there are so few quarries in Alberta. Most regulation and policy development for our industry references pits.
  • As a result, it is anticipated that new sites or any amendments to existing sites could be significantly delayed
  • It is also unclear how the classification as a quarry under EPEA would square with the Public Lands Act and the current process around gravel leases.
  • Furthermore, quarries producing more than 45,000/tonnes per year are required to complete an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) administered through the NRCB.
  • EIA's are time consuming, costly and typically reserved for large resource projects.
  • Regulation and policy on a modified EIA process for gravel pits would take significant time to develop. It is also unclear that this approach would be adopted by Government.

What's happened since the May 6th decision:

  • The ASGA Board of Directors met on May 21, with a presentation by Yellowhead Aggregates on the decision. The Board asked the ASGA's Land & Environment Committee to work on recommendations to government
  • After multiple meetings, the Land & Environment Committee finalized a recommendations document on June 1st. 
  • The ASGA Board of Directors edited and endorsed the recommendations to Alberta & Environments and Parks on June 3rd. 
  • On June 4th, the ASGA President, Land & Environment Committee Chair, and Executive Director met with AEP Assistant Deputy Minister Ronda Goulden and her staff to deliver these recommendations. 
  • On June 12th, the ASGA President and Executive Director met with Alberta Environment and Parks Minister Jason Nixon, MLA, along with his staff to deliver his recommendations.
  • On June 23rd, AEP confirmed in writing that operations in place on May 6th, 2020 would not be impacted. They also confirmed that they are looking for methods to advance applications for pits producing less than 45,000 metric tonnes of aggregate. 

July 7th: Legislation Tabled

  • On July 7th, Alberta Environment and Parks Minister Jason Nixon, MLA tabled Bill 31 for first reading in the Alberta Legislature  in response to ASGA's recommendations. 
  • Bill 31 does three things: 
  • It makes clear that aggregates are explicitly part of the EPEA.
  • It makes clear that a pit is a place where aggregate extraction takes place in the EPEA.
  • It removes references to “silica sand” from the Public Lands Act as a redundant term. 
  • It's an unprecedented achievement for ASGA to have spurred legislation in just six weeks. 
  • This page will be updated as Bill 31 works it's way through the Legislature. 

      July 24: Bill 31 Passed! 

      • Bill 31 passed third reading with unanimous support of MLA's and received Royal Assent this week. We anticipate that the permitting process to restart imminently.
      • It's an unprecedented achievement for ASGA to have spurred legislation in just six weeks. 
      • While this is a great result for our industry, it only returns us to “normal” and unfreezes 500 applications.
      • There is still a huge amount of work for ASGA and AEP to do to create a permitting systems that protect Alberta’s crucial ecosystems and meets our province’s demand for gravel.


      You can read the ASGA's recommendations here. 

      Aggregate Facts

      One mile of a 6-lane highway needs 133,500 tonnes of aggregate.