Alberta Introduces Two New Environmental Management Frameworks for Oil Sands Operations
The Government of Alberta has introduced two new significant environmental frameworks proposed under Alberta’s Lower Athabasca Regional Plan (LARP)—the Tailings Management Framework for the Mineable Athabasca Oil Sands and the Surface Water Quantity Management Framework for the Lower Athabasca River.
The Tailings Management Framework
The Tailings Management Framework is intended to provide direction for the management of new and legacy fluid tailings, during and following the cessation of mining operations in the Lower Athabasca Region. Its stated objective is as follows:
Fluid tailings accumulation is minimized by ensuring that fluid tailings are treated and reclaimed progressively during the life of a project and all fluid tailings associated with a project are ready-to-reclaim within 10 years of the end of mine life of that project. The objective will be achieved while balancing environmental, social, and economic needs.
According to Alberta, the Framework will contribute to the achievement of the outcomes and objectives in LARP, including the objective to increase the speed of reclamation and enhance the reduction of tailings ponds. The two drivers identified as having guided the Framework’s creation, are the need to build on provincial environmental protection and management policies and principles and the need to adopt a cumulative effects management system in the Region.
The Surface Water Quantity Management Framework
The Surface Water Quantity Management Framework is an update to the Water Management Framework: Instream Flow Needs and Water Management System for the Lower Athabasca River, which was implemented by Alberta Environment and Fisheries and Oceans Canada in 2007. The Surface Water Quantity Management Framework is said to complement the three existing environmental management frameworks under LARP (the Air Quality Management Framework, Surface Water Quality Management Framework, and Groundwater Management Framework).