Another Tailings Tale

More than 1.2 trillion litres of toxic sludge containing cyanide, acids, arsenic, and lead is currently sitting in enormous open water bodies. Based on the sum of all the plans, tailings volumes will continue to grow to 1.5 trillion litres. They are not projected to begin to decline until 2037


Edited text based on May 24/18 Pembina article by Jodi McNeill, Analyst at the Pembina Institute,

The Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) approved two tailings management plans for the Jackpine and Muskeg River oilsands mines. operated by Canadian Natural Upgrading Ltd (CNUL). Neither of the plans comply with the rules stipulated by AER Directive 085.

The AER itself states it cannot assess whether CNUL meets the requirements of Directive 085 and the Tailings Management Framework (TMF). CNUL’s plan proposes weak tailings treatment targets, relies on unproven technologies, and ultimately does not lay out a clear and viable plan for producing a reclaimed landscape that can be returned to the people of Alberta. This is emblematic of a sector-wide problem where the liabilities incurred by oilsands tailings ponds continue to grow every year.

The approvals indicate the Alberta government intends to continue the 50-year trend of using a lax regulatory approach for managing oilsands tailings based on weak or non-existent targets and metrics, insufficient transparency, and few clear penalties for non-compliance. Despite the fact that the public is exposed to a significant level of financial and environmental risk, regulatory stringency in addressing this ever-worsening problem remains elusive.

Illustration of a wild guess who will pay for tailings ponds cleanup!