The Boreal Forest
A northern Alberta tailings pond appears to have toxic sludge flowing into the muskeg from an uncontained western edge, a situation uncovered by a CBC News investigation.
The pond, located in a remote area about 70 kilometres northwest of Fort McMurray, contains toxic waste from the Horizon oilsands project operated by Calgary-based Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. (CNRL). It has been in operation for about a year.
The pond has containing berms on all but its western side. According to documents obtained by CBC News, the company is relying on topography and clay beneath the surface to contain the tailings on that section of the pond.
CNRL is legally permitted to have this setup. The plan was approved six years ago by Alberta's Energy Resources Conservation Board (ERCB).
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The Alberta government and industry appear to have won over a group of European Union politicians, who left the province Wednesday saying they plan to push a positive view of the oilsands in debates over new fuel-quality legislation.
Delegation chairman Philip Bradbourn of the United Kingdom said a tour of oilsands sites his group received was surprising and impressive enough to counter some negative perceptions about the operations.
"I think we were all satisfied that everything is being done that can be done to mitigate against any damage," he told reporters Wednesday. "What we thought we would see was not the reality. We came with a pre-conceived idea that maybe we would be looking at some sort of disaster area, and actually we weren't."
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"With even more dead ducks just days after Syncrude was given a slap on the wrist with a petty $3 million fine that they can recover in less than half a day's net profit, it is glaringly obvious that the 170 square kilometers of toxic tailing lakes need to be cleaned up and phased out with a moratorium put in place. The governments of Alberta and Canada need to grow a conscience and be held accountable for protecting the public image of the tar sands industry by failing to enforce weak environmental regulations and continuing to maintain a 100% approval rating and promoting tar sands development. The devastation to the Mackenzie and Athabasca River Delta, the poisoning of Indigenous and downstream communities, and the continuous deaths and contamination of birds and wildlife in the region constitute an ongoing injustice. Denying the Total Joslyn North Mine Project would be the first step of such accountability.... Read more »