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Syncrude Reclamation / Lynne Barlow

Not long ago, this was once a mine. Today, we’re restoring the land with many other valuable things.

In 2008, Syncrude launched an ambitious project: design a peat-forming, groundwater-fed wetland, known as a Fen, and incorporate it into land reclaimed from its oil sands mining operation in northern Alberta. Today, the Sandhill Fen Research Watershed Initiative is home to more than 28 kinds of thriving wetland plants.

Syncrude developed the project as part of a research watershed that covers 52 hectares of sand-capped soft tailings in its former 60-metre-deep East Mine. Scientists introduced a variety of wetland plants throughout the fen and planted more than 100,000 trees and shrubs on the uplands surrounding the project. A number of native plants have successfully taken seed and are growing on their own without having been planted.

Much of the project’s success is thanks to the work and dedication of Lynne Barlow, Syncrude’s Project Manager of the Sandhill Fen construction, and the Research team. The fen is part of the company’s comprehensive reclamation work, which to-date has permanently reclaimed 3,642 hectares, planted more than 8 million shrubs and trees, and has another 1,044 hectares of land where the soils have been placed and are ready to have vegetation planted.

Syncrude completed construction of the watershed in 2012 and is closely monitoring its progress over the next 10 to 20 years. While still in its infancy, the project has already yielded encouraging results that will improve wetland reclamation design and practices at Syncrude and the rest of the oil sands industry.

The award-winning tailings reclamation project was recognized with MAC’s TSM Environmental Excellence Award in 2014 and an Alberta Emerald Foundation Award in 2015.

For Canada’s mining companies, reclaiming the land we borrow is a responsibility we take as seriously as creating jobs and building vibrant communities.

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