A geographic information systems platform with an analytical hierarchy process was employed to rank the importance of different economic, environmental, and social factors involved in choosing the location of an open-pit operation within a small county in the province of Ontario, Canada. Weighted environmental (hydraulic conductivity, soil types, slope, and elevation) and social (distance from population zones) overlays were combined and then compared against a map of potential sources of sand and gravel deposits (economic factor) to locate the most ideal location for a pit. This resulted in the delineation of four ideal locations for the operation in the north of the county. Here, permeability values are low and there are no major population centres. The decision-making tool developed here has the ability to adapt to changing social and (or) environmental criteria and could greatly improve transparency in natural resource management decisions. The largest limitation to this decision-making tool is that it treats all water sources as equal. As research continues to identify different ecosystem services (i.e., acid neutralization, low contamination source waters, and high biological diversity) for different types of waterways, a ranking scheme could be added along the lines of high versus low conservation priorities for nonrenewable freshwater lake and river resources.

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