Reclamation is the process by which lands formerly involved in industry, in this case, bitumen production, are returned to the state of natural productivity that existed previous to the start of industrial activity. The process of reclaiming the land differs depending on what types of activity took place on the land.
Processed sand and sediment from tailings ponds (sand, clay, etc.) must be returned to the pit in order to even out contours in the land that resulted from the removal of oil sand deposits.
Overburden (soil and organic material) that was stored at the beginning of the operation is placed over the sand and sediment layer. Special care is taken to ensure that overburden is not contaminated during the storage period so that it can be replaced as soon as the mining operation concludes.
Syncrude was the first successfully reclaim a site in the Alberta Oil Sands, near Fort McMurray.
The area is reforested or replanted with species native to the area to support a sustainable ecosystem. Extensive research is done in conjunction with local aboriginal people to determine which types of plants should be reintroduced during reclamation.
In situ operational footprints are typically much less than mine sites so reclamation activities are often faster and easier.
Wellpads and roads must be removed and replaced with appropriate soil conditions for regrowing native plants.
Well bores are filled with an inert liquid, capped below the surface with concrete plugs and buried.
Disturbed areas are replanted with native species.
Once reclamation is complete, projects undergo a strict regulatory and environmental review that can take a significant amount of time in order to ensure that the land has been returned to its original state.
When the site satisfies the regulatory bodies, a Certificate of
Reclamation is issued by
Alberta Energy Regulator.