Suncor is the first oil sands company to have transformed an oil sands tailings pond into a surface solid enough to be actively re-vegetated and reclaimed. Once complete, Wapisiw Lookout (formerly Pond 1) will be a 220-hectare area of mixed wood forest and a small wetland, supporting a variety of plants and wildlife.
Watch the progress at Wapisiw Lookout from our live web camera.
Learn more about this milestone:
The history of Wapisiw Lookout
Wapisiw Lookout was a storage area for oil sands tailings between 1967 and 1997. As production increased, Suncor enlarged this oil sands tailings pond.
Dikes were built to create a wider and deeper basin until eventually the tailings pond was lifted about 100 metres above the Athabasca River, with a circumference of about three kilometres. Over the years, Suncor added more and larger tailings ponds to its oil sands site to keep up with the company’s growth. The biggest challenge with the tailings was that not all the solids settled out, even after many years.
Managing oil sand tailings — and specifically how to return the land to a natural state — became an important focus for Suncor.
The oil sands reclamation process
The challenge of reclaiming a tailings pond in the Alberta oil sands has never been accomplished before. View the images for highlights on how we made it happen.
Creating the Surface
Constructing the surface of Pond 1 and covering it with a 50-centimetre deep layer of soil — about 65,000 truckloads.
Planting a cover crop of native grasses and oats.
Collecting seeds from local trees and shrubs, and growing seedlings in the greenhouse.
After that, the new growth was fertilized and monitored.
Monitoring the restoration
Over the next two decades, we will closely monitor progress on Wapisiw Lookout, including the growth of 630,000 shrubs and trees planted in 2010. Ongoing soil, water and vegetation assessments will help ensure this site is on course for return to a self-sustaining ecosystem.
Our commitment to reclamation
Wapisiw Lookout site is a significant step in reducing our environmental footprint. We are using knowledge gained there, along with new and developing innovations in oil sands tailings management, to speed up the reclamation of existing tailings ponds.
Visit the 2013 Report on Sustainability for more information: