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We recognize our operations have an impact on our shared environment, including valuable land resources.
Energy development disturbs land – there is no way around that. However, the land is not lost forever. We undertake detailed planning to reclaim land affected by development before the first tree is removed or the first shovel hits the ground.
Reducing our footprint, reclaiming land, promoting biodiversity
Our land stewardship efforts are focused in three key areas:
- reducing the impact of our operations on land resources through scientific research and best management practices, while also working with neighbouring companies to reduce the cumulative effects of development
- accelerating the pace of reclamation of disturbed lands, including the reclamation of tailings ponds
- preserving biodiversity by working internally and with industry peers and multi-stakeholder organizations on initiatives to conserve and reclaim habitat for birds, mammals, fish and other species
Reserves that underlie 97% of the oil sands surface area are recoverable only using in situ drilling technology, which is similar to conventional oil production. In situ operations disturb about 15% of the land required for mining operations and do not produce tailing ponds. However, in situ operations contribute to forest fragmentation – an issue we are addressing through initiatives undertaken by Canada’s Oil Sands Innovation Alliance (COSIA).
The following biodiversity elements were implemented recently during reclamation planning and execution to improve landscape biodiversity outcomes:
- By working with Aboriginal communities, culturally-significant wetland and riparian plants have been incorporated into existing reclaimed areas and the revegetation plans for future reclamation.
- Diverse ecosystems were created, including lakes, streams, shallow open water, marsh and fen wetlands, and many different forest types.
- Different types of native trees, shrubs and aquatic plants – about 40 species – have been planted, including those important for local wildlife food and habitat and Aboriginal cultural significance.
- Coarse woody debris was recovered from disturbed forests and reused in reclamation to establish wildlife habitat and control soil erosion.
- Logs recovered from disturbed forests were reused as snags or wildlife trees to create perches and nesting sites for birds and habitat for other wildlife.
- Bird and bat boxes were constructed and installed in many new areas.
- Rock piles were established as denning sites for small animals.
- Direct placement of soils in newly reclaimed areas to conserve native seed propagules.
Working with stakeholders
The impacts of our operations are assessed in many ways, including for their impact on biodiversity when permits change or an expansion project warrants a review.
Local stakeholders are often involved in monitoring significant risks and/or potential impacts on biodiversity. We’re required to provide the provincial government with plans and progress updates to manage our impacts on many components of biodiversity within the areas where we operate. This includes:
- revegetation plans
- soil salvage and placement plans
- wildlife mitigation and monitoring plans
Environmental impact assessments and/or socio-economic impact assessments are required by law at all sites where we operate.
Suncor is involved with many stakeholder groups, research activities and monitoring programs aimed at understanding and mitigating potential industry impacts on biodiversity. This includes oil sands development in Canada’s boreal forest, one of the world’s largest intact ecosystems.
We’re committed to being a responsible steward of the boreal forest by striving to preserve the region’s biodiversity. We work independently, and with industry peers and multi-stakeholder organizations, to conserve and reclaim habitat for species, including those potentially impacted by our operations.
We are a signatory to the Boreal Forest Conservation Framework – a groundbreaking national conservation vision developed by 20 First Nations, environmental groups and resource companies.
Learn more at the Boreal Leadership Council website
Working to minimize our impact
We are working on a number of other fronts to minimize our impact in the boreal region:
- Advancing progressive reclamation techniques at our oil sands mining and in situ operations. We’re actively reclaiming lands disturbed by both mine and in situ operations and continuously working to accelerate the time it takes to return disturbed lands to a self-sustaining, locally common boreal forest ecosystem.
- Pioneering research and innovation on wetland reclamation, including the official opening, in 2013, of one of the world’s first man-made fens. (A fen is the most common boreal wetland found in the oil sands region). Learn more about reclamation efforts
- Conservation of environmentally sensitive boreal habitats. In 2003, Suncor Energy and Alberta Conservation Association (ACA) formed the Boreal Habitat Conservation Initiative (BHCI) to conserve ecologically significant areas of Alberta’s boreal forest. Since then, with almost $6.15 million invested, 8,872 acres of natural boreal forest have been protected with the creation of 39 Conservation Sites.
- Recognizing conservation is a long-term commitment, this partnership was initiated as a front-runner to the concept of voluntary offsets. The BHCI continues to acquire and manage habitat in the boreal forest, while looking for opportunities to include additional partners and make greater impact in protecting the boreal forest. The BHCI is a leader in collaboration supporting boreal conservation and is a model for how ACA has developed partnerships with other industries in this area.
- Managing our in situ footprint. We continue to work with industry peers to pilot techniques and increase understanding of how to effectively reduce fragmentation of natural habitat related to in situ bitumen extraction and other resource activity in the boreal forest.
We also work through COSIA on a wide range of projects aimed at restoring disturbed lands and protecting natural habitat.
Examples of our ongoing biodiversity initiatives: