Oil Sands Today

What are oil sands?

Oil sands are a mixture of sand, water, clay and bitumen. Bitumen is oil that is too heavy or thick to flow or be pumped without being diluted or heated. At 10°C/50°F, bitumen is hard as a hockey puck. Some bitumen is found between the surface and 70 metres (200 feet) underground, but the majority is much deeper. 

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Land Reclamation

Reclamation planning begins during the first phase of project design, and a reclamation plan covering the life of the project is required prior to project approval. Oil sands producers perform reclamation on an ongoing basis as operations are completed in a given area. This practice is called progressive reclamation and the objective is to return the land to equivalent capability as soon as possible.

  • Through COSIA, oil sands companies are now collaborating to restore caribou habitat in northeastern Alberta. Find out more here
  • Only 0.02% of Canada’s boreal forest has been disturbed by oil sands mining operations over the past 40 years. Source: AER 2013.
  • Since operations began in the 1960s, approximately 10% of the active mining footprint has been or is being reclaimed by industry. Source: AER 2013.
  • Alberta law requires all lands disturbed by oil sands operations be reclaimed. All companies are required to develop a reclamation plan that spans the life of the project.
  • Reclamation is an ongoing process during the life of a project. Companies apply for government reclamation certification when vegetation is mature, the landscape is self-sustaining and the land can be returned to the Crown for public use.
  • COSIA’s Land Environmental Priority Area (EPA) is focused on reducing the footprint and impact of oil sands mining and in situ (in place) operations on the land and wildlife of northern Alberta. Find out more here

Learn more about land reclamation.

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