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 March 01, 2007
Kearl Oil Sands Project receives conditional approval

 Calgary, Canada - A federal-provincial Joint Review Panel has granted conditional approval for Imperial Oil Resources Ventures Limited (Imperial Oil) to construct and operate the Kearl Oil Sands Project. The Kearl project includes the design, construction, operation, and reclamation of four open pit mines, ore preparation and bitumen extraction facilities, tailings management facilities and other supporting infrastructure approximately 70 kilometres north of Fort McMurray, Alberta.

The $7-billion project will produce 300,000 barrels per day by 2018, with a workforce that will operate on a 'fly-in, fly-out' basis.

The report follows a public hearing held from November 6 through November 29, 2006, in Fort McMurray, Nisku, and Edmonton, Alberta. Aboriginal and environmental groups at the hearings urged the government to slow the pace of development to address issues such as water withdrawals from the Athabasca River, rising greenhouse gas emissions, and inadequate infrastructure.

The Panel was established by the federal Environment Minister and the Alberta Energy and Utilities Board.

The Decision places 17 conditions on Imperial Oil that relate to environmental and technical aspects of the project, including tailings and reclamation management.

The Joint Panel makes eight recommendations to the Government of Canada relating to water management, fish habitat monitoring, mine fleet emissions technology, regional monitoring, and the Cumulative Environmental Management Association. The Association, a non-profit, multi-stakeholder organization responsible for researching and making recommendations on the cumulative environmental impact of development in the Wood Buffalo Region, has been characterized as under-funded and without the necessary capacity to manage development, as it struggles to meet deadlines.

The Joint Panel makes 20 recommendations to the Government of Alberta. The recommendations include: that Alberta continue to work with the Northern Lights Health Region (NLHR) to address the lack of land, infrastructure and resources that the NLHR is currently faced with in Fort McMurray; that coordinated action be taken to ensure that the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo (RMWB) has the ability to service the anticipated level of sustained growth in the region; and that Alberta continue to work with the RMWB to ensure the supply of land ready for residential development and the necessary planning is in place to meet the existing and expected housing demand in the region.

The Alberta government recently announced that it will provide nearly $400 million to Fort McMurray to address strained infrastructure and services such as health care, housing, and water supply.

Kearl is the third oil sands project to receive regulatory approval in the past four months. Suncor Energy Inc.'s Voyageur project and Albian Sands' Muskeg River venture have also been approved in decisions that noted increasing environmental and social pressures from development in the region.

The Panel's final report (Joint Panel Report EUB Decision 2007-013) is available on the EUB Web site at www.eub.gov.ab.ca. A summary can be found on the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency's Web site (PDF).

Source: Government of Alberta.