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New rules state Alberta tailings ponds must be reclaimed after 10 years

FILE -- Tailings drain into a pond at the Syncrude oilsands mine facility near Fort McMurray, Alta., Wednesday, July 9, 2008.
FILE -- Tailings drain into a pond at the Syncrude oilsands mine facility near Fort McMurray, Alta., Wednesday, July 9, 2008. Jeff McIntosh, The Canadian Press

New requirements issued by the Alberta Energy Regulator target oilsands tailings ponds, requiring that they be ready to reclaim within 10 years of the end of a mine’s life.

The new rules also include performance reporting.

READ MORE: Alberta Energy Regulator urges companies to step up detection of pipeline leaks 

“These new requirements will ultimately remove tailings from the landscape of Alberta,” Jim Ellis, CEO of the AER, said.

“We recognize that stakeholders expect more involvement in regulatory development than ever before – for matters that affect them, their communities, and the environment. That’s why these new requirements were developed using the broadest consultation in our history.”

A multi-stakeholder committee created the requirements that oilsands operators in Alberta must follow. The committee included representation from oilsands mining operators, First Nations, Métis communities, the Municipality of Wood Buffalo, and environmental organizations.

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The new requirements call for all fluid tailings to be ready to reclaim within 10 years of the end of a mine’s life.

“These new rules focus on outcomes and industry accountability to address environmental effects of tailings and management of new and existing tailings through progressive reclamation, providing regulatory clarity and certainty to industry and Albertans,” Ellis said.

A second phase of the directive, which will be developed once applications are submitted by industry, will ensure strict surveillance and compliance requirements.

Click here to view the newly issued Directive 085: Fluid Tailings Management for Oil Sands Mining Projects, a summary of all the feedback received, plus the AER’s response.

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