Surface materials

The Alberta government reviews all applications to explore and extract sand, gravel, clay, marl and topsoil, as well as peat operations.

Explore pages in:


Exploration and extraction applications and peat operations are reviewed under the Public Lands Administration Regulation (PLAR). Application types are:

  • Conservation Operation Reclamation Plan or CORP (formerly Conservation and Reclamation Business Plans or CRBP)
  • Public Pit Licence (PPL)
  • Surface Material Exploration (SME)
  • Surface Material Lease (SML)
  • Surface Material Licence (SMC)

Borrow activities on public land

Borrow activities on public land for energy operators

The Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) has regulatory authority for surface material leases and licences subject to these conditions:

  • the borrow pit is required for and is incidental to an operator’s energy resource activities
  • only sand, silt or clay materials are removed
  • material will not be used for non-commercial or personal use

If a borrow pit application does not meet these conditions, Forestry and Parks – in other words, the ministry – is the regulatory authority.

The ministry has published the Borrow Pits on Public Lands Operational Guidance Fact Sheet outlining operational information on the application process for surface material dispositions issued by the AER.

Aggregate activities on public lands

The ministry’s applications for surface materials are submitted in the Electronic Disposition System (EDS). If you require an EDS account, refer to the User IDs and Client IDs for access to Industry Online Services for more information.

The process for submitting the CORP has changed, where the CORP is now uploaded using a link that is sent to the disposition holder or land agent. To acquire the link to upload the CORP, send an email with the SML disposition number to [email protected].

A brief description of the sand and gravel allocation process is available in the Alberta Aggregate (Sand and Gravel) Allocation Directive for Commercial Use on Public Lands and Q and A.

For a list of public pits in Alberta see:

Note: With the implementation of the new Alberta Aggregate Allocation Directive, some of the information outlined in the current guidelines is out of date and is being updated shortly. A new manual will be posted in the near future. Information pertaining to the Exploration and Conservation Operation Reclamation Plan is still relevant.

The guidelines provide surface material operators with:

  • directions on how to develop and follow the required CORP, which outlines how to conduct the operation in an environmentally sustainable manner
  • directions on how to evaluate and mitigate environmental issues

Supplementary manual

The government has developed a supplementary manual to complement the Guide to Surface Material Extraction on Public Land.

The Best Management Practices: User Manual for Aggregate Operators on Public Land gives aggregate operators more detailed operational (on the ground) directions on how to effectively manage environmental issues.

It includes written procedures and diagrams of various environmental best management practices. These could be incorporated into the required CORP and implemented during construction/reclamation activities.

Athabasca River area

The government has developed supplemental guidelines for aggregate applications along the Athabasca River within the Woodlands Management Area. These provide additional guidance to industry for required CORP submission criteria in that area.

Effective May 17, 2011, aggregate operations in the Woodlands Management Area of the Athabasca River Valley must comply with:

Annual returns and reports

The mandatory reporting date for filing both the annual return and the Annual Operating Report (AOR) is January 31. Both the annual return and the AOR are submitted in EDS. The AOR can be attached as a separate document when submitting the annual return.

SML holders are required to provide the following:

  • the volume of surface material removed the previous year based on
    • volumes removed in 2 reporting periods, from January 1 to March 31 and April 1 to December 31
  • an estimate of the volume of surface materials to be removed from January 1 to March 31 of the following year
  • Surface Material Lease Annual Return submission common reporting date Directive for further information

Submitting electronically

Definition of the removal for the purpose of surface material annual return

“Removal of surface materials is defined as the act of removing surface material, by surface excavation, from either the surface or under the surface, of a Surface Material Lease or Surface Material Licence.

Royalty will apply to all surface material volumes removed from either the surface or under the surface and not remaining in stockpiles on the surface material dispositions, regardless of the end use of the resources.”

Public works projects

The following letter reminds disposition holders to submit written confirmation of volumes of material reported for public works projects:

Section 115 of PLAR covers removing aggregate from the land under an SML. The removal is exempt from royalty only when supplied free of charge and:

  • used by the Government of Alberta
  • used to construct or maintain a public work owned by the province or an Alberta municipality

For more details, follow the link below to the “Pits, mines and quarries” section, where you can access the Public Works Confirmation Form:

Audit of annual returns

All surface material annual returns are subject to audit. Under Section 118 of PLAR, operators must maintain books and records substantiating their annual returns.

PLAR also authorizes the surface material auditor to audit the books and records. This is done to verify the royalty payable on surface materials removed under the lease or licence.


Government of Alberta

Hours: 8:15 am to 4:30 pm (open Monday to Friday, closed statutory holidays)
Phone: 310-LAND (5263) (in Alberta)
Toll Free: 1-833-310-5689
Email: [email protected]


5th Floor, South Petroleum Plaza
9915 108 Street NW
Edmonton, Alberta  T5K 2G8

Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) Customer Contact Centre

Hours: 8:15 am to 4:30 pm (open Monday to Friday, closed statutory holidays)
Phone: 403-297-8311
Toll Free: 1-855-297-8311
Fax: 403-297-7336
Email: [email protected]


Alberta Energy Regulator, Head Office
Suite 1000, 250 5 Street SW
Calgary, Alberta  T2P 0R4

View all AER contact options