Pembina Institute

First-ever Oilsands Mine Environmental Report Card Reveals Weak Environmental Performance

Released: Jan. 10, 2008

Media contact: Dan Woynillowicz

Today, Pembina Institute and WWF-Canada released Under-Mining The Environment, The Oilsands Report Card - the most comprehensive comparative assessment of 10 of Alberta's operating, approved or applied for oilsands mines. The mines, for the most part, get a failing grade.

The average score among all oilsands projects surveyed was only 33 per cent, demonstrating substantial room for improvement across the sector. The leading operation in the survey was the Albian Sands Muskeg River Mine, scoring 56 per cent. The weakest operations were Syncrude and the proposed Synenco Northern Lights Mine both with scores of 18 per cent.

Oilsands mines were ranked on 20 different environmental indicators in five categories: environmental management, land impacts, air pollution, water use, and management of greenhouse gases. Companies were invited to complete the survey questionnaire and provided with two opportunities to comment on their performance. In total, seven of the 10 projects participated in the survey. Three companies, Total E&P, Syncrude and Canadian Natural declined to respond.

"There is growing concern in Alberta, in the rest of Canada and internationally about the environmental impacts of oilsands mining," states Dan Woynillowicz of the Pembina Institute. "Despite these concerns we found that oilsands companies are making weak efforts to manage their environmental impacts. We found only one mining operation came close to a passing grade and that substantial improvements in environmental performance were possible for all projects."

Key findings of the report card include:

  • While the majority of oilsands operations have comprehensive environmental policies in place, only two companies provided evidence of having an independently-accredited environmental management system such as ISO 14001.
  • With the exception of the existing Albian Muskeg River Mine, no operation has voluntary targets to limit greenhouse gas emissions.
  • No project or company has publicly-reported targets to reduce water usage from the Athabasca River.
  • Despite more than 40 years of oilsands development, not a single hectare of land has been certified as reclaimed under Government of Alberta guidelines.

"The poor environmental performance reflects badly on the oilsands mining companies, which include the largest and most profitable major oil companies in the world. These companies have both the expertise and the resources to do much better." states Rob Powell of WWF-Canada. "Government must establish limits to curb impacts on fresh water, the global atmosphere, wildlife and public health"

"We also believe an opportunity exists for companies to step up and work together to solve these environmental challenges," adds Marlo Raynolds, Executive Director of the Pembina Institute. "Let's get the best engineers available focused on environmental performance."

In the report card, Pembina Institute and WWF-Canada also provide recommendations to improve oilsands environmental management, including a need for greater transparency from Government and industry on environmental performance, the need to implement currently available best-practices and a stronger commitment to voluntary reductions in environmental impacts.

The report and all the analysis data are available online at www.oilsandswatch.org and www.wwf.ca/oilsandsreport

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For more information contact:

Dan Woynillowicz, Pembina Institute (Toronto)
403 888 6272

Rob Powell, WWF-Canada (Edmonton)
780 459 9453 ext. 21

Note to Editors, News Directors:
The report, fact sheet and data tables can be downloaded from www.pembina.org/pub/1571 and www.wwf.ca/oilsandsreport


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