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AER publishes 2022 State of Fluid Tailings Management for Mineable Oil Sands Report

Today, the Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) published the 2022 State of Fluid Tailings Management for Mineable Oil Sands report.  

This report summarizes Alberta’s eight oil sands mine operator’s tailings management reports (TMR) including fluid tailings volumes, water volumes stored in tailings facilities, tailings volumes reaching ready to reclaim (RTR) status, whether operators are within approved fluid tailings profiles, site wide tailings management activities, alignment with approved tailings management plans (TMPs), and continual improvement of tailings treatment technologies.

These individual TMR reports were published on the AER website in their entirety on May 30, 2023. This annual reporting is a requirement under AER Directive 085: Fluid Tailings Management for Oil Sands Mining Projects

Report highlights include: 

  • The total volume of fluid tailings* (new and legacy tailings combined) on oil sands mine sites increased between 2014 and 2022, apart from a slight decrease in 2021. The increase in the total regional volume of fluid tailings was expected based on approved tailings profiles.
  • The total volume of water in fluid tailings ponds in the region varied from 2014 to 2022. From 2014 to 2017, the total volume of water in the tailings ponds decreased, then increased between 2018 and 2020. The total volume of water in tailings ponds in the region decreased from 2020 to 2022.
  •  From 2014 to 2019, bitumen production increased, as did the number of operating mines. This was followed by a decrease in production in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic and the associated drop in global oil demand. Bitumen production then increased from 2020 to 2022. 

Between May and October each year, AER technical specialists conduct a comprehensive review of each operator’s TMR submission and then provide an evaluation of each operator’s tailings management, highlighting any regulatory actions taken, evaluating regional performance against the tailings management framework outcomes and objectives, and identifying the fluid tailings management level each approval holder is operating at as per the TMF and Directive 085.

The AER is committed to transparently sharing information related to tailings and tailings management. Although there is data contained on Imperial Oil’s Kearl mineable oil sands project in this report, information and updates on AER’s ongoing oversight of the Kearl Environmental Protection Order (EPO) and Imperial’s management and response can be found on our website.   

For questions arising from the operator reports, please contact the specific operator directly. 

For questions related to the AER report, please contact @email. For media inquiries, please contact @email.  

* Fluid tailings are categorized as legacy fluid tailings (fluid tailings stored before January 1, 2015) and new fluid tailings (fluid tailings stored after January 1, 2015).