Sustainability at Suncor

Land and reclamation

Energy development disturbs land. We work to mitigate this by developing detailed reclamation plans that consider the impacts of our operations and embed learnings from local Indigenous Peoples and community stakeholders.

Our work focuses on reducing the size and duration of the land we disturb, facilitating the return of a biologically diverse landscape and naturally sustainable ecosystems. To do this, we are:

  • reducing the impact of our operations through scientific research and best management practices, and collaborating with neighbouring companies to reduce cumulative effects of development
  • accelerating the pace of reclamation of disturbed lands through progressive reclamation opportunities
  • working with industry peers and multi-stakeholder organizations on initiatives to conserve and reclaim habitat for birds, mammals, fish and other species
  • adopting traditional knowledge from Indigenous Peoples.
Lake Miwasin, located on our Base Plant site, is an 18 ha reclamation research area. The project represents a scaled version of the reclamation and closure plan for Base Plant, including uplands, wetlands and a demonstration pit lake (Lake Miwasin) that contains PASS-treated fluid tailings. To date, Lake Miwasin is progressing well in terms of water quality and plant and wildlife in the area. Throughout the Lake Miwasin project, local Indigenous communities have collaborated with us on the research and monitoring.

Our approach

End land use, which is how the land will be used following closure and reclamation, is an important consideration throughout the life cycle of a project, from initial planning through to final reclamation. This includes considerations such as planting specific plant species, when and where.

Before developing a new mine or in situ project, we develop plans that outline the life of the project and closure activity, including reclamation. Plans are updated regularly throughout the project and incorporate project changes, new learnings and technologies as they are developed.

The Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) must authorize reclamation and closure plans for all new projects in Alberta and authorizes updated plans as they are developed.

Common nighthawk sitting on a rock surrounded by grass
The Common Nighthawk is among the Species at Risk birds using reclaimed habitats on the Fort Hills site.

Monitoring

We monitor biodiversity in and around our oil sands operations and reclaimed sites, in accordance with our regulatory commitments and aligned with broader regional initiatives. At our in situ sites, reclaimed terrestrial, wetland and aquatic areas are monitored according to site specific reclamation monitoring plans that track biodiversity while vegetation regrows and ecosystems develop. Through monitoring, we collect information on soil, vegetation, and water quality which is used to support reclamation certificate applications once it’s determined requirements have been met.

We further evaluate biodiversity across our sites through wildlife monitoring, conducted in accordance with approved wildlife mitigation and monitoring programs. One way we assess biodiversity at our mining operations is through a program called Early Successional Wildlife Dynamics (ESWD). This multi-year program, conducted in collaboration with COSIA member companies, applies the same monitoring methods across each of our company sites, including the use of cameras and recording devices, to assess the return and re-establishment of wildlife on reclamation areas. Using the same methods at each site creates data sets that can be compared across sites to get a regional view.

Due to COVID-19 pandemic restrictions, wildlife sampling in 2020 in northern Alberta was limited. However, remotely triggered wildlife cameras continued to operate and in 2020 a total of 27 wildlife species were recorded at Base Plant and Fort Hills — 18 of those species recorded in reclaimed habitats. For our in situ sites, remote cameras at Firebag recorded 13 wildlife species, and acoustic recording units recorded 26 bird species. At MacKay River, cameras recorded 15 wildlife species.

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Read more in the Report on Sustainability

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