Proposed oil sands mining development
Syncrude Mildred Lake Extension (MLX) project will provide a replacement supply of bitumen for upgrading when the current North Mine approaches the end of its oil sands deposit. It is designed to allow Syncrude to sustain its current production capacity.
The project consists of two mine sites – MLX West, located northwest of the current North Mine and west of our MacKay River in situ asset; and MLX East, located on the east side of the Mildred Lake Settling Basin.
The Mildred Lake Extension project (MLX) received regulatory approval in 2019 and additional approvals in 2020. MLX-West was put on hold in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic; however, construction activities were restarted in 2021, with first oil expected in late 2025.
Syncrude publicly disclosed its intention to file an application two full years in advance. This was in response to feedback from local Indigenous communities who indicated they wanted to be engaged in the process as early as possible and to have the opportunity to understand the project before the application was filed.
Syncrude provided opportunities for local Indigenous communities to provide input into the draft terms of reference for the environmental assessment. Syncrude also sought proposals to carry out Traditional Land Use studies prior to submitting the application.
Once the Alberta government approved the consultation plan in January 2013, a broad-ranging consultation was launched with local Indigenous communities and other stakeholders. Because of those efforts, agreements were reached with four First Nations and two Metis Locals.
Responsibility to Indigenous communities
We are committed to communicating directly and openly with Indigenous communities to identify and address questions and concerns.
We continue to engage and consult with Indigenous communities throughout the life of the project. Future engagement activities will vary depending on the nature and extent of community impacts and how individual communities want to be engaged. Engagement may include open houses, on-the-land workshops, community meetings and technical meetings.
We will seek to identify specific impacts to economic, social and health conditions and ensure that they are incorporated into ongoing assessment work and planning for the project.
The MLX project was designed to minimize operational effects on the environment and wildlife. A 100-metre setback from the top of the escarpment will be maintained along both the MacKay and Athabasca rivers, with available corridor and riparian areas between 600 metres to 2.5 kilometres wide.
The primary infrastructure construction is a bridge across the MacKay River to allow heavy haulers to move oil sand to Syncrude’s existing facilities. The bridge design mitigates impacts on fisheries and is designed to ensure the safe movement of wildlife along the river valley.
MLX will use existing extraction and upgrading facilities so no new infrastructure or tailings ponds will be required. The project will not increase emissions or fresh water import from the Athabasca River, and disturbed land will be progressively reclaimed as it is available.
We work with governments, industry and community groups to develop coordinated, long-term approaches to address social and economic effects of oil sands development.
Our investment in the project will benefit nearby communities, Alberta, and Canada through:
- employment opportunities
- promotion of economic growth and business development
- continued use of existing oil sands processing facilities
- creating value from Canada’s oil sands resources
- fostering opportunities to implement innovations that are currently being developed and enabling ongoing investment in research and development
- valuable revenues for governments
- education and training
- community investment