Belmont Pit

The Belmont sand and gravel pit, before and after!

The Belmont Pit, in Colchester County, was opened in the late 1900s to provide aggregate for construction. Today, it is a reclaimed and thriving wetland.

The site was first worked sometime prior to 1986 when Dexter Construction took it over from its previous owners. The pit provided gravel for various projects, including the twinning of highway 104 in the Debert area and a number of paving and construction initiatives in Truro.

In the modern era, Nova Scotian mining and quarrying companies must get government approval of reclamation plans and post reclamation bonds (money in escrow, basically) that ensure sites are properly taken care of when extraction is done. The Belmont Pit is a great example of modern reclamation.

The pit, which is adjacent to the Chiganois River, was reclaimed by Dexter in 2016 and turned into 3.65 hectares of wetland habitat.

This was done by building dams and berms to keep water in the pit, excavating ponds, contouring and ditching to promote water flow within the site, and planting a variety of seeds to foster the growth of plants complementary to the vegetation that naturally grew on the site.

Regular monitoring and maintenance were done over the next five years to track progress and ensure the reclamation plan’s goals were achieved.

Today, the former pit is a mosaic of wetland habitats, including marshes, ponds and shrub swamps, combined with small areas of upland habitat, which is higher and dryer and helps promote diversity of plant and wildlife. The site’s extensive vegetation will continue to expand on its own.

In the picture, the boundary of the former pit is outlined in red. Notice how the reclaimed area looks the same as the areas outside the pit’s boundary. Blending a former mine, quarry or pit back into the natural environment is the goal of most reclamation projects. In time, people likely won’t realize that an industrial operation was ever there.

Aggregate is the most-mined material in the world because it is used in virtually all infrastructure, including homes, roads, schools and hospitals. Aggregate makes up about 80% of concrete and 94% of asphalt.

Nova Scotia needs 10-15 million tons of new aggregate each year to build and maintain our infrastructure. For example, one kilometre of highway requires about 18,000 tons of aggregate to build.