Authors: Richens, TC; Purdy, BG


Cite As:
Richens, TC & Purdy, BG 2011, 'Regulatory requirements for reclamation and closure planning at Alberta’s oil sands mines', in AB Fourie, M Tibbett & A Beersing (eds), Mine Closure 2011: Proceedings of the Sixth International Conference on Mine Closure, Australian Centre for Geomechanics, Perth, pp. 47-55,

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All oil sands mine operators are required to conserve and reclaim land disturbed for their operations, and to obtain a reclamation certificate under Alberta Environment (AENV)’s Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act (EPEA). Each operator is given specific operating approval conditions related to conservation, reclamation and closure activities. Other conditions identify what plans and reports must be submitted and authorised by AENV prior to implementation. AENV works closely with Alberta Sustainable Resource Development, the government department whose mandate includes managing forest resources, biodiversity, fish and wildlife. Using an adaptive management approach in response to new knowledge and technology, EPEA approval conditions are updated over time with changes specific to expectations associated with soil salvage and placement, wetland reclamation, annual reporting, and closure plan development, amongst other things. Since three major oil sands mine public hearings held in 2006, AENV has clarified expectations by updating approval conditions, providing industry specific templates for reporting, developing consistent and clear definitions, and defining a table of contents for upcoming reclamation and closure plan updates. Future reclamation plans and reports submitted to AENV by the operators will include data in a common geodatabase (GIS) format. Work is ongoing within the Government of Alberta to develop a comprehensive geodatabase for the mineable oil sands region, which will make information more easily accessible to regulators, industry, and the public. This paper will highlight the regulatory requirements related to conservation and reclamation activities at the oil sands mines, including but not limited to soil salvage, storage, and placement, revegetation, wildlife and biodiversity, and wetlands. The paper will focus on the recent efforts made by the regulators to ensure consistent and clear expectations surrounding submission of reclamation and closure plans as well as annual reporting requirements. A summary of the current status of the tree clearing, land disturbance and reclamation activities associated with the oil sands mines will be presented.

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