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AER shares update on Imperial‘s Kearl tailings management

The AER continues to oversee required mitigation efforts at the Kearl Oil Sands mining project. These efforts are ensuring the continued safety of the water, wildlife, and the public.

To date, the regulator has received no reports of impacted wildlife or fish related to any exposure to the tailings seepage or spill material. There have also been no impacts to drinking water.

On Friday, Sept. 29, 2023, Imperial Oil Limited (Imperial) submitted to the AER its Mine Interim Source Control and Containment Plan Effectiveness Review for the Kearl Oil Sands mining project.

The AER required the review to evaluate the effectiveness of the projects constructed interception systems, provide information on water quality at designated surface and groundwater monitoring locations, and provide further information about the Kearl seepages, both on and off site.

The review re-confirms that seepage interception systems were operational by spring of 2023, pumping collected water back to the tailings pond. It also identifies potential data gaps in monitoring information and provides recommendations to further investigate the potential for additional impacted pathways of seepage.

The AER has required a winter drilling program, which will also provide further data about potential additional pathways of seepage, on and off site, as well as further monitoring and data collection. This constitutes the expanded targeted monitoring and testing that the AER has required. Monitoring and testing is being done on both surface and groundwater, to better protect the public and help the AER understand the potential for additional impacted pathways.

The AER’s top priority is ensuring that downstream water continues to remain safe, and any potential impacts to the public and Indigenous groups are prevented or mitigated and communicated transparently. This fall, the AER is expecting additional information from Imperial, including a groundwater modelling report, and a conceptional site model with geological interpretation.

As the AER continues its investigation of Imperial, the regulator will continue to ensure strong oversight of the Kearl site.

The AER will continue to share information on the situation at Kearl and as per the EPO, Imperial is sharing a copy of the report with regional communities in a timely and transparent fashion.

The AER ensures the safe and responsible development and operation of all energy infrastructure throughout the lifecycle of energy production.