By amending the Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act, the government is eliminating confusion about what constitutes a mineral by providing clear definitions in legislation. This will ensure sand continues to be regulated under its current process, which is simple, straightforward and protects the environment.

“Job creators should not need interpreters to understand legislation and regulatory laws. That’s why the government is taking action to ensure that sand and gravel operators have clear definitions that are accurate in legislation. Environment and Parks has had an effective and environmentally sound regulatory system in place for more than 15 years to review and approve projects. This bill will provide clarity and consistency for job creators in the sand and gravel industry while still maintaining stringent environmental protection regulations.”

Jason Nixon, Minister of Environment and Parks

If passed, Bill 31 would amend the definition of minerals and pits in the Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act (EPEA), and remove references to silica sand in the Public Lands Act (PLA).

On May 6, the Alberta Court of Appeal ruled that sand is a mineral under the EPEA. This means that sand operations above 45,000 tonnes each year must be regulated as a quarry instead of a pit. Before this decision, all projects removing sand were regulated as pits.

Legislative changes to two acts are needed to provide clarity and regulatory certainty for operators:

  • By amending the EPEA, we are removing confusion about what constitutes a mineral. This will ensure sand continues to be regulated under its current process, which is simple, straightforward and reflects its well understood environmental impacts.
  • By amending the PLA to remove references to silica sand, we are creating certainty about the interpretation of sand by eliminating unclear and duplicative terminology. Since sand is already defined in provincial legislation, also defining silica sand makes application documents unnecessarily complicated for operators.

The court decision affects about 500 applications that are currently awaiting review. Applicants submitted the information required for a pit authorization – not a quarry approval – so the applications are now incomplete and cannot be authorized in their current state without the passing of Bill 31.

Quick facts

  • Without government’s legislative amendments, any application for a sand project that is more than 45,000 tonnes annually now needs to be revised to include complex approval requirements and an environmental impact assessment (EIA).
  • There are no consequences to the end of life/reclamation as a result of these proposed legislative amendments. Quarries and pits are both required to be reclaimed at the end of their life cycle.