None of the
companies operating in Canada's tar sands have met a commitment to clean up the
vast and expanding sprawl of toxic wasteponds, an official report has found.
The report, from Alberta's Energy Resources Conservation
Board, further challenges the Canadian government's claims to responsible
mining of the tar sands.
minister, Stephen Harper, spoke to Parliament on Thursday. Three protesters
were arrested during the visit.
The report focuses on the provincial government's
promise to clean up and eventually eliminate a vast network of open ponds
storing mining waste from the tar sands along the Athabasca river.
None of the seven companies operating in the tar
sands met the original performance standard, set in 2009, during the last two
years, the ECRB said in its report.
Only one of the companies met a revised and
The finding was quietly published last week,
without a press release.
"Industry performance over the 2010/2012
reporting period has not met the original expectations," it concluded.
However, the board did not propose any penalties
against the companies, suggesting instead that the clean-up targets may have
been overly optimistic.
Mining waste from the tar sands, a mix of water,
sand, silt, clay, contaminants, and hydrocarbons, is dumped in a system of open
lakes, known as tailing ponds.
The ponds are hugely toxic to marine life, and some
7,000 ducks and geese die every year after mistakenly landing there.
The ponds currently occupy an area about 50% larger
than the city of Vancouver, according to the Pembina Institute, an
environmental research centre. By 2020, they are expected to expand to 250
Alberta's government imposed the performance
standards in 2009 to try to reduce the growing sprawl of liquid waste dumps.
Under the standards, mining operators were to have reduced their waste by 50%
by June 2013.
Alberta's premier, Alison Redford, promised during
a trip to Washington in April that such waste ponds would disappear entirely by
Pembina Institute's Jennifer Grant argued the
province should put further expansion of the tar sands on hold, until companies
meet the performance standard. She also called for more rigorous enforcement
action. " It is irresponsible to approve new oilsands expansion when
mining operators are failing to meet tailings clean up rules," Grant wrote
in an email. "Promises of responsible oilsands development ring hollow
when the ERCB is not enforcing its own tailings rules."