AER ap­proves flawed Syn­crude tail­ings-pond plan

Edmonton Journal - - CITY -

The Alberta En­ergy Reg­u­la­tor has ap­proved a tail­ings pond man­age­ment plan for oil­sands miner Syn­crude Canada de­spite its re­liance on a re­me­di­a­tion method that isn’t en­dorsed by the agency.

The reg­u­la­tor re­quires that all oil­sands mine pro­duc­ers out­line how they will deal with the toxic stor­age ponds that to­gether cover more than 220 square kilo­me­tres and con­tain al­most 1.2 tril­lion litres of wa­ter con­tam­i­nated with oil, chem­i­cals and fine clay par­ti­cles.

The AER says Syn­crude’s plan to use fresh wa­ter to cre­ate lakes by “cap­ping ” its re­main­ing tail­ings at the end of mine life isn’t al­lowed un­der cur­rent gov­ern­ment pol­icy and it there­fore must present an al­ter­na­tive plan by the end of this year.

Syn­crude’s wa­ter-cap­ping tech­nol­ogy has been tested on site since 2012 and will be ready for a 10-year as­sess­ment in 2023.

The AER says that will give Syn­crude enough time to de­ploy an al­ter­na­tive end-of-mine-life treat­ment if wa­ter-cap­ping fails the test or is still re­stricted by gov­ern­ment pol­icy.

En­vi­ron­men­tal­ists have crit­i­cized the AER for ap­prov­ing tail­ings re­duc­tion plans for sev­eral oil­sands mines though all have been found to have de­fi­cien­cies.

The reg­u­la­tor says it agrees with Syn­crude’s use of “com­pos­ite tail­ings” tech­nol­ogy to cre­ate a solid coarse sand prod­uct by mix­ing gyp­sum with some of its liq­uid tail­ings.

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