In 2009, Alberta Environment worked with Alberta Sustainable Resource Development and the oil sands mine operators to review the way that disturbance and reclamation information was historically reported to the Government through annual reports. It was understood that there were challenges and inconsistencies in how disturbance and reclamation were defined by the operators, and clear direction from government was required.
Alberta’s State of the Environment website previously reported on the categories: active, reclaimed, and certified, with little clarity on what the active and reclaimed categories represented.
The following definitions represent a clear, concise, and consistent way for information to be provided to Alberta Environment for tracking and public reporting. The data provided gives a clear snapshot of the status of the land, at the time of reporting. The new definitions provide a better system for tracking the level of disturbance associated with oil sands mining, and the reclamation progress that the companies are making. Progressive reclamation activities are better represented, and a clear definition of each ensures better accuracy in reporting.
Due to the significant shift in definitions used for reporting, the new data cannot be compared to previously reported data. The new data is meant to provide a true State of the Environment for the mineable oil sands region as of December 31 of each year, and it will be updated on an annual basis using data provided by the operators in the Annual Reclamation Progress Tracking reports submitted to Alberta Environment.
EPEA Approved Footprint - is the total project area approved under the Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act approval issued to the company by Alberta Environment.
Mine Site Footprint - includes associated facilities. Includes all areas cleared, disturbed or reclaimed that do not fall within the definition of the Plant Site Footprint. For the purposes of annual conservation and reclamation reporting, it includes tailings ponds and tailings related structures.
Plant Site Footprint - includes associated facilities. Plant Site is defined as the industrial plant site footprint (i.e. plant site proper). For the purposes of annual conservation and reclamation reporting, it does not include tailings ponds and tailings related structures.
Total Active Footprint - equals the (cumulative) total area of land cleared plus disturbed plus ready for reclamation, plus soils placed, plus temporary and permanently reclaimed lands (terrestrial and aquatic). Certified lands are not included in this category.
Cleared – areas where vegetation has been removed for the purposes of preparing the land for drainage, soil removal, overburden removal, mining, etc. but where soil has been left mostly intact and relatively undisturbed.
Disturbed: Used for Mine or Plant Purposes – areas where at a minimum, soil has been removed or covered by other materials and soil would be required for reclamation purposes. This category includes, for example, all areas where soil removal, overburden removal, active mining, discard placement, or material storage has occurred. End Pit Lakes are reported in the disturbed category.
Ready for Reclamation: No Longer Used for Mine or Plant Purposes - areas that are no longer required for mine or plant purposes and are available for reclamation but where reclamation activities have not yet commenced.
Soils Placed (Terrestrial; Wetlands and Aquatics) - areas where reclamation material has been placed, reporting a combination of both the terrestrial, and the wetlands and aquatics permanent reclamation categories. Land moves from the Disturbed category to the Soils Placed category once reclamation material is placed as per the approved Reclamation and Soil Placement Plans.
Temporary Reclamation (Terrestrial) – areas being managed where vegetation has been seeded, planted, or ingressed, where there is an expectation that future disturbance may occur at that location.
Permanent Reclamation (Terrestrial; Wetlands and Aquatics) – land is considered permanently reclaimed when landform construction and contouring, clean material placement as required, reclamation material placement and revegetation has taken place. Land cannot be listed under permanent reclamation until revegetation has occurred which is reflective of the approved Reclamation and Revegetation Plans.
Certified - areas that have received a reclamation certificate under the Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act. These areas are not counted in the Total Active Footprint calculation because they are no longer active (they are returned to the Crown).
Age of Reclamation – the age is calculated based on the year that the area was considered permanently reclaimed. If previously reclaimed land is re-disturbed, the number of hectares is removed based on the year it was reclaimed so that the total amount of land at any given age is accurately reflected.