Authors: May, LL; Warner, C; Acton, CA; Salifu, KF; Anderson, HB; Tedder, WS

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DOI https://doi.org/10.36487/ACG_rep/1152_08_May

Cite As:
May, LL, Warner, C, Acton, CA, Salifu, KF, Anderson, HB & Tedder, WS 2011, 'Evaluation of reclamation success in Alberta’s oil sands', in AB Fourie, M Tibbett & A Beersing (eds), Proceedings of the Sixth International Conference on Mine Closure, Australian Centre for Geomechanics, Perth, pp. 65-73, https://doi.org/10.36487/ACG_rep/1152_08_May

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Abstract:
Suncor Energy Inc.’s Reclamation Area #8 (RA8) is an overburden disposal area containing lean oil sands and an average of 3% hydrocarbons. RA8 was reclaimed to an upland ecosite over several stages starting in 1979 and continuing in 1984, 1987 and 1990. Annual monitoring of the site was conducted from 1979 through to 2008. As a result, RA8 is one of the few sites in the Oil Sands Region that provides an example of long-term reclamation performance. Although each portion of the area was reclaimed according to the standards of the day, valuable information is provided on the long-term performance of reclamation using a variety of different preparation and planting strategies. Reclamation approaches included relieving compaction on berms; a peat-mineral reclamation soil cap; breaking up the surface to improve the seedbed; controlling erosion with the planting of annual barley; applying fertiliser and afforestation. Percent cover by species, vegetation height, litter cover and soil samples were evaluated throughout the reclaimed areas. Meteorological monitoring was added to the program in 2004. The results indicate that advanced reclamation is successful at RA8. Six of eleven dominant species found in the area are comparable to those found in the low-bush cranberry aspen-white spruce (d2) ecosite phase. Tree and shrub cover increased following reclamation, with shrub cover reaching a plateau after nine years. Second generation spruce seedlings have established on the site. Forbs established on the site through the soil seed bank or through natural ingress. Grass and forb cover decreased as tree and shrub cover increased. Moss has also established on the site. Traditional use species are present and those planted during initial reclamation have remained. Moderately high carbon to nitrogen ratios and high cation exchange capacity were observed in the upper 15 cm of soil and were likely a result of the organic matter additions in the peat mineral mix.

References:
Alberta Agriculture, Food and Rural Development (AAFRD) (1987) Soil Quality Criteria Relative to Disturbance and Reclamation, Prepared by the Soil Quality Criteria Working Group, Soil Reclamation Subcommittee, Alberta Soils Advisory Committee, Alberta Agriculture, Edmonton, AB.
AMEC Earth and Environmental (2009) Vegetation and Soil Characteristics in Reclaimed Areas on the Suncor Lease: 2008 Annual Report, 206 p. plus appendices.
Beckingham, J.D. and Archibald, J.H. (1996) Field Guide to Ecosites of Northern Alberta, Natural Resources Canada, Northern Forestry Centre, Northwest Region, Special Report 5, Edmonton, AB, 516 p.
Klym, D.J. and Shopik, T.D. (1980) Annual Development and Reclamation Report for 1979, Suncor Oil Sands Division, 35 p. plus maps.
OSSVWG (2006) Oil Sands Soil and Vegetation Working Group. Results from Long Term Soil and Vegetation Plots Established in the Oil Sands Region, Prepared by AXYS Environmental Consulting Inc. and Paragon Soil and Environmental Consulting Inc, Edmonton, Alberta.
Suncor Energy Inc., Oil Sands (2009) Closure Planning and Reclamation: 2008 Annual Conservation and Reclamation Report, 110 p. plus appendices.
Suncor Inc., Oil Sands Group (1985) Annual Development and Reclamation Report 1984, 31 p. plus maps.
Suncor Inc., Oil Sands Group (1988) Annual Development and Reclamation Report 1987, 51 p. plus maps.




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