Responsible development

Pioneering Reclamation at Lake Miwasin

Efforts by Canada’s oil sands industry to lessen its environmental footprint have resulted in globally significant work to reduce impacts to air, water and land and support biodiversity in Alberta’s boreal forest. 

The industry aspires to be a world leader in environmental management. 

Here’s one example of the work underway by Pathways Alliance companies: reclamation. 

Pioneering reclamation at Lake Miwasin  

Lake Miwasin is a demonstration pit lake that is showing how pit lakes can be a safe and effective part of reclaiming a commercial mine site once the mine’s life is over. The lake (whose name means ‘nice’ or ‘beautiful’ in Cree) is a COSIA project led by Suncor Energy. COSIA is the innovation arm of the Pathways Alliance. 

A transformative, multi-year and multi-stage research initiative, Lake Miwasin is a scaled down version of a commercial pit lake that is scheduled for reclamation in 15 years. A number of technologies are being tested here that will ensure oil sands mines can be closed safely and effectively now and in the future. 

Lake Miwasin represents a collaborative effort with local Indigenous communities because reclamation and closure is about returning the land to natural habitat in a way that considers the concerns and knowledge of local communities that will use the land in the future. In fact, it was an Indigenous student from Fort McMurray that gave this demonstration lake its name. 

Suncor is testing a treatment process for fluid tailings (the fine materials leftover from mining activities) at Lake Miwasin. Called Permanent Aquatic Storage Structure (PASS), the technology is the first step in establishing a lake that is capable of supporting a full ecosystem of aquatic life. The treatment process speeds up the removal of water from fluid tailings, allowing the lake to integrate into the surrounding environment more quickly. 

The PASS process, combined with the design for the lake watershed, will eventually lead to a self-sustaining boreal lake ecosystem. Suncor will continue to monitor and manage the lake for another 15 years. 

Find out more about Lake Miwasin from Rodney Guest, Suncor’s Director of Water & Closure.

Learn more about the efforts of Pathways Alliance members to advance responsible development of the oil sands industry.