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Best practices for wetland reclamation for Alberta oil sand mines

Paper from the Proceedings of Mine Closure 2015 conference held in Vancouver, Canada, June 1-3, 2015. (downloadable PDF)

Authors: T. Charette, CPP Environmental, Canada; J. Martin, Suncor Energy, Canada

Published by InfoMine Inc.
ISBN: 978-0-9917905-9-3
Copyright: 2015, InfoMine Inc.


Abstract

Over the next century, hundreds of wetlands will be reclaimed in The Mineable Oil Sands Region of Alberta, Canada. They will become common features of the final reclaimed landscape. Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act (EPEA) operating approvals for oil sands mining stipulate that “the reclaimed soils and landforms are (to be) capable of supporting a self-sustaining, locally-common boreal forest, regardless of the end land use.” To achieve desirable end states, there is recognition that an integrated approach, including watershed hydrology, water quality prediction, and biological, or food-web approaches, are required.

There are presently seven open pit oil sands mines operating in the 475,000 ha surface mineable Athabasca Oil Sands Area. Located entirely within the Boreal Plain, this area consists of common geology, climate, and vegetation. Because of this, regional best practices and guidance documents are developed jointly by operating companies, government and stakeholders. One of these documents, the Guidelines for Wetlands Establishment on Reclaimed Oil Sands Leases (the “Wetlands Guide”), was published at the end of 2014 as a significant update from the previous version. It presents an integrated approach to the planning, design, construction, monitoring, adaptive management, and certification of wetlands. The Wetlands Guide is meant to be a resource for planners, landform design teams, regulators, stakeholders and Aboriginal peoples with respect to reclaimed wetlands in the oil sands region.

The purpose of this paper is to demonstrate how ecological research and knowledge on natural landforms and wetlands in the Boreal forests of northern Alberta support closure planning and design. The focus of the information in this paper is on depressional wetlands, that is, marshes and open water wetlands, reflecting the knowledge base for these types of wetlands.


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