Advanced Tailings Reclamation

Canadian Natural’s tailings management strategies focus on the objectives of dam integrity, environmental performance, and reclamation. We align with regulatory requirements based on two key principles: 

1. Creating natural features on the land that are integrated within the local landscape.

2. Supporting productive wetlands and boreal forest ecosystems. Our processes focus on preventing fluid tailings (FT) through optimizations and continuous improvements. 

Tailings Reclamation at Muskeg River

The South Expansion Area at our Muskeg River Mine, part of our Albian operations, was the first tailings facility in the oil sands mining region to be reclaimed to satisfy the new requirements under Alberta’s Dam and Canal Safety Directive (2018). The Directive requires a plan and authorization from the regulator for the decommissioning and closure of the facility that ensures the stability and safety of the landform. Canadian Natural transformed the site to include natural landscape features such as hummocks and channels designed to reflect similar natural landforms in the region. A mixed forest was planted using trees and shrubs grown from seeds collected locally.

Active pond in July 2018.

Reclaimed area in August 2022.

We are also investing in technologies are increasing water recycling and improving tailings consolidation over time, to ultimately accelerate the reclamation process. We are also optimizing and sharing knowledge and technologies between the Horizon and Albian operations, as well as with industry through COSIA, with the goal of increasing operational efficiency. 

As part of innovation efforts around tailings management, our Horizon site has been operating a test pilot project on the In Pit Extraction Process (IPEP). This project has potential to:

  • reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by up to 40% in our bitumen production operations compared to conventional oil sands mining processing plants by minimizing transportation;
  • accelerate reclamation and, potentially eliminate the need for future fluid tailings ponds through the production of “dry” stackable tailings; and;
  • reduce production costs by approximately $1 to $2/barrel while substantially reducing tailings management costs and liabilities. 

Learn more about the IPEP project in this video

For more information on how the Canadian energy industry is working together to advance tailings management practices, visit the Mining Association of Canada and the Canada’s Oil Sands Innovation Alliance – Tailings Management page.