WWF Canada and the Pembina Institute assessed 10 mines which are already operating, or have been approved or applied for in the Alberta region.

In a report entitled Under-Mining the Environment the two organisations ranked the mines on 20 different environmental indicators and concluded they were failing to make the grade.

The average score among the projects surveyed was just 33% when their impact on environmental management, land impacts, air pollution, water use and management of greenhouse gases was assessed.

The leading operation in the survey was the Albian Sands Muskeg River Mine, which scored 56%, while the weakest performers according to the report were Syncrude and the proposed Synenco Northern Lights Mine, both of which achieved just 18%.

“There is growing concern in Alberta, in the rest of Canada and internationally about the environmental impacts of oil sands mining,” said Dan Woynillowicz of the Pembina Institute.

“Despite these concerns we found that oil sands companies are making weak efforts to manage their environmental impacts.

“We found only one mining operation came close to a passing grade and that substantial improvements in environmental performance were possible for all projects.”

The report found that only the Albian Sands Muskeg River Mine had made voluntary targets to limit greenhouse gas emissions, and none had targets to reduce water usage from the Athabasca River.

Pembina Institute and WWF Canada recommended greater transparency from government and industry on environmental performance, and a stronger commitment to voluntary reductions in environmental impacts.

“These companies have both the expertise and the resources to do much better,” said Rob Powell of WWF-Canada. “Government must establish limits to curb impacts on fresh water, the global atmosphere, wildlife and public health.”

Kate Martin

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie