Imperial Oil's Kearl oilsands tailings plan wins conditional AER approval - 660 NEWS
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Imperial Oil's Kearl oilsands tailings plan wins conditional AER approval

Last Updated Jul 16, 2018 at 1:00 pm MDT

Imperial Oil logo as seen at the company's annual meeting in Calgary on April 29, 2016. The Alberta Energy Regulator has conditionally approved a tailings management plan for the five-year-old Kearl oilsands mine operated by Imperial Oil Ltd. of Calgary. Since last fall, the regulator has given interim approval to five plans for remediating oilsands tailings ponds, despite its own reservations. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

CALGARY – The Alberta Energy Regulator has conditionally approved a tailings pond management plan for the five-year-old Kearl oilsands mine in northern Alberta.

The plan is the sixth since last fall to win interim approval despite the regulator’s reservations about the applicants’ ability to remediate the lakes of contaminated water created in the oilsands mining process.

The AER says in its Kearl decision that it has concerns with whether operator Imperial Oil Ltd.’s assumptions about its treatment technology performance will match actual results as oilsands ore is mined until 2056.

It also says the company’s end-of-mine-life target appears to be greater than the maximum allowed five years of fluid tailings production and it must therefore provide an updated tailings profile by the end of 2020.

The AER also ordered Imperial to submit an alternative to its tentative plan to cover 125 billion litres of untreated fluid tailings with a water cap, as the regulator has not approved the use of that technique.

Oilsands mining companies were ordered in 2015 to submit plans to progressively treat and reduce tailings over the life of each project, with all fluid tailings ready to reclaim within 10 years of the end of mine life.