CMJ readers had much to say about the needed cleanup in the oil sands industry.
Here are some of the comments that were sent our way:
“In the early Eighties, I visited one of the [Syncrude] plants as we were promoting dry tailings disposal using very large horizontal belt filters,” wrote frequent correspondent John Pursel of Tiroch Equipment. “This never proceeded and I cannot recall the reason. However, I will suppose it is that dumping in a pond is the cheapest route but certainly not even close to a good idea.”
“From what I (a geological engineer) recently read, the oil sands may NOT be developing responsibly,” wrote Chris Armstrong, president of Marland Alignment Lasers. He went on to call for an independent review by “experienced and learned individuals.” If they find current environmental practice unacceptable, “Development must be slowed, prudently, until an acceptable balance is achieved (by cost, including social cost, and price/supply and demand). And if the situation is as serious as some indicate, a moratorium MUST be placed on NEW development NOW.”
Canarc Resource president and COO Garry Biles, waded into the discussion: “Inevitably the exploitation of natural resources has an impact on the environment during the operations phase of activities. These impacts are usually temporary and of relatively short-term duration. With today’s technology and environmental awareness, resource companies are generally well aware and very diligent in reclaiming the lands upon completion of these activities. In a broader sense these human activities are relatively insignificant to the impacts caused naturally by the forces of nature.”
The oil sands are a naturally occurring phenomenon, Christ Martindale of Hope, B.C., reminded us. “The oil sands are an ancient oil seep that was forced into the sands of an inland sea or lake by underground pressure and have been sitting there for hundreds of thousands of years. When the glaciers melted and the weight came off, the land rose and drained the water leaving the oil-soaked lake bottom that they call the tar sands, polluting all the rivers and lakes in the area with a gooey bituminous mess. The natural vegetation eventually covered it with muskeg and forest but it was still doing its stinky thing when the first white explorers first arrived. The natives off the area were already using it to waterproof their canoes and to light fires.
“Until recently the technical knowledge and mechanical equipment did not exist to economically extract this ancient oil spill. The companies and governments that are cleaning up this mess should be congratulated, not condemned,” concluded Martindale.