On this page:
Finding ways to get fluid tailings to dewater more quickly and become suitable for reclaiming is critical to improving our overall reclamation performance. Left unmanaged, these fluid tailings could take centuries to naturally dewater enough to be reclaimed.
All forms of mining — whether coal, gold, uranium or potash — produce tailings. Mining operators must determine how to safely and effectively dispose of this byproduct. With mining operations on the scale of the oil sands, the challenge is all the more daunting.
Oil sands tailings are the remaining sand, water, clay, silt and residual hydrocarbons left after the majority of the hydrocarbons are extracted from the ore during our water-based extraction process. Fluid tailings are formed from the portion of clay that does not become trapped in the trafficable tailings sand. In situ drilling of oil sands bitumen does not produce tailings.
Suncor employs a holistic approach to tailings management called Tailings Reduction Operations (TROTM). TROTM includes:
- Fluid Transfer and Storage Systems
- Sand Dumps
- Dedicated Disposal Areas
As mining operations expanded fluid tailings volumes increased. Suncor currently has about 300 million cubic metres (m3) of fluid tailings. Since launching TROTM six years ago, it has helped prevent the further increase in fluid tailings volumes on site at Suncor’s base plant.
Oil sands tailings management
Over the past six years, Suncor’s approach has allowed us to reclaim a tailings pond (Wapisiw Lookout) and make another one trafficable through the use of coke capping technology and we are in the process of converting another one to a dedicated disposal area.
™ Trademark of Suncor Energy Inc.