ALBERTA - A provincial court in Fort McMurray has agreed with the Crown that oil sands producer Syncrude was at fault in the death of as many as 500 ducks in one of its tailings ponds in April 2008.
The federal government charged Syncrude under Section 5.1 of the Migratory Birds Convention Act, which states no one "shall deposit a substance that is harmful to migratory birds ... in waters or an area frequented by migratory birds". The provincial charge was laid under Section 155 of the Alberta Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act that states "a person who keeps, stores or transports a hazardous substance or pesticide shall do so in a manner that ensures that the hazardous substance or pesticide does not directly or indirectly come into contact with or contaminate any animals, plants, food or drink".
The laying of such charges could have serious ramifications for the Canadian mining industry because it challenges the legality of settling basins, the company said in a news release. This leaves Syncrude and other industrial facilities open to private prosecutions and business and operational uncertainty, even if the federal and provincial governments do not file charges.
Since the incident, Syncrude has made changes to its bird deterrent system based on its investigation. Those changes are outlined at www.Syncrude.ca.