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Biodiversity in action in Canada’s oil sands

December 7, 2022

Efforts by Canada’s oil sands industry to lessen its environmental footprint have resulted in globally significant reclamation and restoration work to support biodiversity in Alberta’s boreal forest.

The industry aspires to be world leaders in land management, restoring the land and preserving biodiversity of plants and animals.

Here are just some examples of biodiversity work underway by Pathways Alliance companies:

Best practice portal

COSIA, the innovation arm of Pathways Alliance, worked with the Canadian Forest Service on a virtual best practices toolkit for forest reclamation.

Millions of trees

3.9 million – the number of trees that have been planted across Canadian Natural’s oil sands mining operations (Horizon and Albian).

Protecting the Canadian toad

Did you know? - Canadian Natural is monitoring Canadian toads at its Horizon site, outfitting them with miniature GPS ‘backpacks’ so that this ‘at risk’ species can be relocated and then tracked.

First tailings facility reclaimed

The first oil sands tailings facility to be reclaimed under Alberta’s new requirements was at Canadian Natural’s Muskeg River Mine. This area now includes streams, wetlands and upland forest areas with hummocks creating a natural wildlife habitat.

Forests of the future

A unique interim reclamation initiative at Cenovus Energy’s Christina Lake oil sands operations promotes biodiversity and encourages regrowth in advance of final reclamation work.

Restoring caribou habitat

This Cenovus Energy project to restore caribou habitat in the oil sands is the largest project of its kind in the world. The program involves restoring up to 4,000 kilometres of linear land disturbances and progressing their tree planting program.

Gamechanging technology

As a result of Cenovus Energy’s work testing and using amphibious vehicles land can be restored in any season, at a faster pace, lower cost and with minimal environmental impact.

Fishing for solutions

Cenovus Energy is improving structures like culverts or replacing them with bridges on roads that cross creeks, streams and rivers near its operations for the benefit of many threatened or endangered fish species.

Faster Forests

Pathways Alliance companies are returning disturbed lands back to nature faster and more efficiently through best practice planting of tree seeds and seedlings.

Surmont boreal reclamation project

Did you know? - ConocoPhillips Canada has partnered with NAIT’s Boreal Research Institute on research that could accelerate the time it takes for disturbed sites to be reclaimed.

Academic research key

ConocoPhillips Canada supports long-term research programs that investigate the effects of industrial disturbance and develop strategies to restore boreal ecosystems which are under pressure from climate change.

Swallow hotel

Imperial set up barn swallow hotels, moving shacks used to house equipment outside active work areas so that swallows nesting inside would not be disturbed.

Wildlife monitoring innovation

Imperial leverages digital tools to provide real-time data that helps inform wildlife management plans.

New home for fish

Imperial creates compensation lakes to replace fish habitat removed for mining. These lakes are self-sustaining bodies of water that support thriving aquatic ecosystems.

Ensuring native plants return

The number of years Suncor has been monitoring its reclaimed sites to ensure the return of native plant species.

Mining’s impact on wilderness

0.2% - the percentage of Alberta’s boreal forest disturbed by oil sands mining over the past 40 years.
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