Alberta regulator approves two more non-compliant oilsands tailings management plansPembina Institute reacts to Alberta Energy Regulator’s decision

May 24, 2018

CALGARY — Jodi McNeill, Analyst at the Pembina Institute, made the following statement in response to the Alberta Energy Regulator approval of tailings management plans for the Jackpine and Muskeg River oilsands mines:

“Yesterday, the Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) approved two tailings management plans for the Jackpine and Muskeg River oilsands mines operated by Canadian Natural Upgrading Ltd (CNUL, a subsidiary of Canadian Natural Resources Ltd). Just as with the October approval of Suncor's base plant tailings plan and the December approval of CNRL’s Horizon Mine tailings plan, neither of CNUL’s plans comply with the rules stipulated by AER Directive 085.

“In the approval decision, the AER itself states it cannot assess whether CNUL meets the requirements of Directive 085 and the Tailings Management Framework (TMF). Rather than denying the plans, the regulator has provided the operator with an additional five years to address the insufficiencies.

“CNUL’s plan proposes weak tailings treatment targets, relies on unproven technologies, and ultimately does not lay out a clear and viable plan for producing a reclaimed landscape that can be returned to the people of Alberta. This is emblematic of a sector-wide problem where the liabilities incurred by oilsands tailings ponds continue to grow every year. Current tailings volumes represent a substantial amount of the industry's estimated $27 billion in liabilities, of which only $1 billion is currently held in securities by the province.

“The approvals indicate the Alberta government intends to continue the 50-year trend of using a lax regulatory approach for managing oilsands tailings based on weak or non-existent targets and metrics, insufficient transparency, and few clear penalties for non-compliance. Despite the fact that the public is exposed to a significant level of financial and environmental risk, regulatory stringency in addressing this ever-worsening problem remains elusive.”






Suzy Thompson

Communications Lead, Alberta, Pembina Institute

Jodi McNeill

Analyst, Pembina Institute


OpEd: Oilsands tailing ponds are a nasty challenge that can't be ignored

Blog: Tailings ponds: The worst is yet to come


Our perspectives to your inbox.

The Pembina Institute endeavors to maintain your privacy and protect the confidentiality of any personal information that you may give us. We do not sell, share, rent or otherwise disseminate personal information. Read our full privacy policy.