Melancthon Mega Quarry
by the Numbers

This spring, when The Highland Companies filed its application for a 2,316-acre limestone quarry, a small rural protest caught the big wave.

June 16, 2011 | | Environment

Sources are listed at the bottom of this page. The Highland Companies is backed by the Boston-based Baupost Group, a $22-billion hedge fund. Its registered lobbyists in Queen’s Park include Dalton McGuinty’s former chief of staff and a former attorney general. And it is applying for a licence in a province whose policies and laws, notably the Aggregate Resources Act, are widely criticized as biased in favour of the industry – and poorly implemented at that.

  1. Size of proposed Melancthon quarry, in acres · 2,316
    View the quarry site map — Note: the site map in the magazine showing the actual location of the proposed quarry was incorrect. This version on the website represents the corrected positioning.
  2. Width, in kilometres · 5
  3. Amount of rock reserve required to meet MNR’s definition
    of a “mega-quarry,” in tonnes · 150,000,000
  4. Amount of rock reserve in the proposed quarry, in tonnes · 1,000,000,000
  5. Length of two-lane highway that could be built with this aggregate, in kilometres · 55,555
  6. Circumference of the earth, in kilometres · 40,075
  7. Approximate depth the quarry will dig below the water table, in feet · 200
  8. Height of Niagara Falls, in feet · 167
  9. Number of major watersheds affected · 2
  10. Amount of water that will have to be pumped each day
    to divert it from flooding the quarry, in litres · 600,000,000
  11. Number of times this exceeds the combined amount pumped by all quarries in Ontario today · 60
  12. Number of Ontarians’ daily water needs this represents · 2,700,000
  13. Rate of aggregate extraction cited in application’s economic studies,
    in millions of tonnes per year · 10
  14. Number of years it would take to deplete the quarry reserve at this rate · 100
  15. Amount of aggregate extracted at Canada’s largest existing quarry in 2009,
    in millions of tonnes · 6.6
  16. Maximum combined total aggregate extraction permitted in the country of Sweden,
    in millions of tonnes per year · 12
  17. Hours per day that the quarry plans to conduct extraction, conveyance, maintenance,
    processing and shipping · 24
  18. Actual rate of aggregate extraction, supported by the application’s traffic scenario of the 150 trucks that will come and go per hour, in millions of tonnes per year · 52
  19. Amount of residual ammonium nitrate fuel oil (ANFO) explosive that immunologist, Unitarian and antiquarry activist Neil denHollander calculates could be released by quarry blasting into the air, water and soil each day, in tonnes · 1
  20. Fee per tonne that the government levies on virgin aggregates extracted in Ontario · $0.115
  21. Amount of the equivalent fee in the UK · $3.22
  22. Percentage of Ontario aggregate production that comes from recycled material · 7
  23. Percentage of UK aggregate production that comes from recycled material · 21
  24. Value that an MNR-commissioned study gave to “ecosystem services” provided by intact natural heritage features in Southern Ontario · $84,000,000,000
  25. Amount the North Dufferin Agricultural and Community Taskforce has spent on consultants to help understand and fight the quarry application · $100,000
  26. Amount that NDACT is in debt as a result of this spending · $56,000
  27. Approximate value of assets of the quarry’s U.S.-based backer, the Baupost hedge fund, headed by investment guru Seth Klarman · $20,000,000,000
  28. Approximate amount per acre that Highland Companies paid for its quarry land · $8,000
  29. Estimated value per acre of the aggregate reserve on this land · $3,500,000
  30. Amount per acre the quarry will pay in annual county and township property taxes · $86
  31. Cost on of a used copy of Klarman’s book, Margin of Safety: Risk-Averse Value Investing Strategies for the Thoughtful Investor, in which he outlines his philosophy of “always buying at a significant discount to underlying business value” · $1,345
  32. Number of permanent jobs Highland says the quarry will provide · 465
  33. Percentage of these jobs that are local, on-site jobs, other than trucking · 35
  34. Percentage decline in the number of MNR aggregate inspectors since 1994, before the Conservative government replaced annual inspections with industry self-reporting · 52
  35. Percentage of quarries that MNR inspectors now attempt to visit in person each year to verify industry compliance reports · 20
  36. Percentage of surveyed quarries that the MNR found to have compliance problems when it conducted an internal review in 2006-2007 · 83
  37. Ratio of land disturbed for aggregate extraction
    to land rehabilitated in Ontario, 1995 to 2005 · 2.3:1
  38. Percentage of government aggregate fee that goes to an abandoned pits and quarries fund · 4
  39. Number of significant “built heritage resources and cultural heritage landscapes” identified on the quarry site by the Highland Companies’ Cultural Heritage Study · 0
  40. Number of farmsteads demolished by Highlands on its properties prior to its application · 30
  41. Duration that The Highland Companies’ scientists searched for amphibians or played recorded birdsong at various locations to determine the presence of endangered species at the quarry site, in minutes · 3 to 6
  42. Percentage of Ontario’s stored potato crop located in Melancthon last November · 49
  43. Percentage of Melancthon’s prime potato-growing area – a unique 15,000-acre plateau of Honeywood Loam soil – located on the quarry site · 15
  44. Percentage of Canada’s land area that is rated Class 1 farmland, the highest quality · 0.5
  45. Percentage of proposed quarry land that is Class 1 farmland · 95.8
  46. Percentage of farmland lost in Central Ontario since 1951 · 49
  47. Percentage of proposed quarry area that the application says will be rehabilitated to “prime agricultural land and agriculturally related uses” on the quarry floor, where a “hardy crop…is expected to produce acceptable yields” · 58
  48. Lift that will need to be overcome by the quarry’s dewatering pumps, in feet · 175
  49. Lift of pumps operating in the Holland Marsh, in feet · 8
  50. Annual amount per acre in 2011 dollars that NDACT estimates it will cost to operate these pumps in perpetuity in order to avoid flooding and sustain farming on the quarry floor · $4,500
  51. Annual gross yield from an acre of potatoes in 2007,
    of which 5 to 10 per cent may be profit · $3,360

Sources for Melancthon Mega-Quarry by the Numbers

1, 2 The Highland Companies/In the Hills research; 3 Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources ;4 The Highland Companies; 5 Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources; 6 In the Hills research; 7 Citizens’ Alliance for a Sustainable Environment (CAUSE); 9, 10 The Highland Companies; 11 Canadian Institute for Environmental Law and Policy (CIELAP); 12 The Toronto Star; 13 The Highland Companies; 15 Aggregates & Roadbuilding Magazine; 16 CIELAP; 17, 18 The Highland Companies/In the Hills research; 19 Neil denHollander; 20, 21, 22, 23, 24 CIELAP; 25, 26 Carl Cosack, North Dufferin Agricultural and Community Taskforce (NDACT); 27; 28 The Toronto Star; 29 Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources; In the Hills research; 30 The Highland Companies/In the Hills research; 31; 32, 33 The Highland Companies; 34, 35, 36, 37, 38 CIELAP; 39 The Highland Companies; 40 CAUSE/NDACT 41 David Suzuki Foundation; 42, 43 David Vander Zaag; 44 Dufferin Federation of Agriculture; 45 The Highland Companies; 46 Dufferin Federation of Agriculture; 47 The Highland Companies; 48, 49, 50 Carl Cosack, NDACT; 51 David Vander Zaag/Statistics Canada.

More Info

  • North Dufferin Agricultural and Community Task Force:

About the Author More by Tim Shuff

Tim Shuff is a freelance writer.

Related Stories

Priceless for potatoes: The quarry would be in the heart of the Honeywood plateau, a parcel of exceptional vegetable land twice the size of Holland Marsh. The area’s farmers have their own reasons to love the porous limestone that lies not far below their prized Honeywood Loam: it’s what drains the soil while reducing the need to irrigate by wicking moisture from below. Add to that a high elevation, cool climate and virtually f at, stonefree acreage, and it’s heaven for spuds – a combination they say can’t be found anywhere else. Photo Bryan Davies

Birth of a Protest

Jun 16, 2011 | Tim Shuff | Environment

This spring, when The Highland Companies filed its application for a 2,316-acre limestone quarry, a small rural protest caught the big wave.

High Stakes in the High County

Sep 16, 2009 | Tim Shuff | Environment

The Highland Companies, a U.S.-based investment syndicate, has assembled 9,500 acres, most of it in Melancthon, but many people in the community, led by NDACT, worry about the future of their farmland and water resources.



  1. the gravel play is bad enough, and your work is well done in this area, but the water is by far the greater point! i happened to see a t.v. ontario program this week on the subject, and the moderator said that the application was for the water pumping to be licensed IN PERPETUITY! this is far more grave than the gravel portion of the play. It is easy to envision the gravel portion to be an extremely profitable excuse to develop a way to legally divert the water from that area (note the “in perpetuity” part of the application) for sale to the highest bidder, be that bidder local or international. There is an end to the gravel portion of the play, defined by the volume of the gravel at issue. THERE IS NO END, NOR IS THERE A LIMIT, TO THE WATER PORTION OF THE PLAY! further, once the tap is turned on, IT CAN NEVER BE TURNED OFF! i am late to this issue, and feel somewhat presumptuous in intruding, but this would be a disaster if it is allowed, an absolute disaster! it ties in to the commercializing of water everywhere in the world. i have never joined a protest before, and have no idea what to do, really, beyond this sort of letter, but there should be a huge wave of protest immediately, if it is not already too late.

    Dave Boswell from Arnprior on Oct 29, 2011 at 11:38 am | Reply

  2. Sounds like I jumped the gun a bit. this was the provincial government making the promise and I was thinking about the federal petition that’s out. It’s still great to hear but I don’t have much faith in Dalton’s Crew or any of their promises especially right now with the election coming up . We are really going to have to be careful about voting this time around. Everyone is making promises about what they will do and we can’t seem to believe any of them. If you get a chance sign the petition that David Tilson is taking to the House of Commons and please question anyone you are thinking about voting for

    I was feeling pretty good there for a while but our day will come and the you will hear me shout from anywhere. WE just HAVE to win this battle. Please keep spreading the word. Every letter anyone writes . Every phone call. Every person you talk to about the Quarry will help.
    God Bless you all.

    Louisa McCutcheon from GreyHighlands on Sep 7, 2011 at 10:43 am | Reply

  3. I just heard the news. We get a full environmental assessment !!!! It’s not over by along shot but what a thrill. Surly we are on the way to success. Congratulations to all who helped. God Bless everyone

    Louisa McCutcheon from GreyHighlands on Sep 1, 2011 at 8:18 pm | Reply

  4. I’ve created an infographic that puts some of the numbers into context and sheds some light on what ‘mega’ means. You can see the infographic here:

    Jamie Kapitain on Aug 30, 2011 at 12:00 am | Reply

  5. This whole thing is outrageous!!! There are videos on Youtube of historic buildings beeing demolished, pictures of habitat being destroyed in case of the EA, and propaganda videos by HC of the project. People of Ontario need to stand up to this as it’s going to affect millions of us.

    Ben Wilks from Mulmur on Aug 23, 2011 at 1:25 pm | Reply

  6. Bravo!!! We need all the information we can get. This is really Wonderful keep it up .I would love to know who is connected to Who with the Quarry and the Turbines
    Louisa McCutcheon from Grey Highlands July 24 at 1.25 / reply

    Louisa McCutcheon on Jul 24, 2011 at 1:31 pm | Reply

  7. I am against the Quarry

    M.E.McNair on Jul 22, 2011 at 3:21 pm | Reply

  8. Brilliant work Tim Shuff and the “In the Hills” team. The information you provide in this article is extremely potent. Bravo!

    Zita Harper from Mulmur on Jul 4, 2011 at 10:58 pm | Reply

  9. Very well done, certainly brings all the facts together.

    Kim Corlett from Shelburne, Ontario on Jun 30, 2011 at 3:21 pm | Reply

  10. Tim, thank YOU!!!

    Ken Phillips from Shelburne, ON on Jun 28, 2011 at 11:14 pm | Reply

  11. This is great, very well referenced. Very well introduced, great journalism. I hope you don’t mind if I make it into a pamphlet to be handed out for awareness. Thank you Tim Shuff!

    Johnny Dib from Toronto, ON on Jun 28, 2011 at 4:17 pm | Reply

  12. Now THAT’s what I call statistics! Bravo!
    ~Carl Michener

    Carl Michener from Alliston, ON on Jun 25, 2011 at 7:08 am | Reply

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