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, https://doi.org/10.36487/ACG_rep/1152_72_Richens
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.
AENV (2006) Land capability classification for forest ecosystems in the oilsands (3rd Edition). Volume 1: Field manual for land capability determination, Alberta Environment, Edmonton, Alberta Pub. No. T/875.
AENV (2007) Guideline for Wetland Establishment on Reclaimed Oil Sands Leases (2nd Edition), prepared by Harris, M.L. of Lorax Environmental for the Wetlands and Aquatics Subgroup of the Reclamation Working Group of the Cumulative Environmental Management Association, Fort McMurray, Alberta, December 2007.
AENV (2010) Guidelines for Reclamation to Forest Vegetation in the Athabasca Oil Sands Region (2nd Edition). Prepared by the Terrestrial Subgroup of the Reclamation Working Group of the Cumulative Environmental Management Association, Fort McMurray, Alberta, December 2009.
AENV (Draft 2011) Administrative Guide to the Oil Sands Mine Reclamation Certification Process. Alberta Environment, Edmonton, Alberta.
Alberta Justice (2006) Submission of Her Majesty the Queen in right of Alberta in relation to Imperial Oil Resources Ventures Limited, Proposed Kearl Oil Sands Project, EUB Applications No. 140877a and 1414891 before the Joint Federal/Alberta Energy and Utilities Board Review Panel. Jeffrey Moore and Brent Prenevost, Counsel for Her Majesty the Queen in right of Alberta, October 6, 2006.
CEMA (2011) Cumulative Environmental Management Association. Best Management Practices for Conservation of Reclamation Materials in the Mineable Oil Sands Region. Prepared by the Terrestrial Subgroup of the Reclamation Working Group of the Cumulative Environmental Management Association, Fort McMurray, Alberta, April, 2011.
ERCB (2010) Alberta’s Energy Reserves 2009 and Supply/Demand Outlook 2010–2019, Energy Resources Conservation Board Report ST98-2010, Calgary, Alberta, June 2010.