Stakeholder engagement supports sustainable development of compensation lakes

Corporate Responsibility

Stakeholder engagement supports sustainable development of compensation lakes

Canadian Natural started developing the first compensation lake of its kind in the Athabasca oil sands region in 2008. Horizon Lake (also known as Wãpan Sãkahikan in Cree) is an 80-hectare lake developed in close consultation with local people to incorporate traditional Indigenous knowledge into its design.

When the Horizon Oil Sands operation was established, long term co-operation agreements were signed between Canadian Natural and Indigenous communities in order to foster relationships that support social, cultural, economic and environmental goals. Our Company is committed to working with communities practicing their traditional ways of life by implementing and sharing best practices and traditional knowledge. For example, with members of the Fort McKay First Nation we have established and harvested rat root on the lands around Horizon Lake, which is used for medicinal purposes.

Indigenous stakeholders have visited the lake for the past several years to receive updates on its development, and to stay informed on issues related to our operations, including tailings management and biodiversity. A stakeholder pavilion structure was completed alongside the lake, serving as a new and improved meeting place for stakeholders and staff. “Our consultations with Indigenous stakeholders have covered everything from the design of the lake to the fish population and vegetation, including those of traditional importance — it was only fitting that they also provided key input on the new gathering place structure,” says Bob Dunn, District Landman, Horizon.

To date, Canadian Natural has invested $20 million to create and develop Horizon Lake. Research is ongoing to increase our knowledge of the lake, enhance fish monitoring techniques and further improve habitat for arctic grayling, which is considered a “species of special concern” by Alberta’s Endangered Species Conservation Committee .

At the Athabasca Oil Sands Project (AOSP), we are monitoring and assessing the ecological development of two other compensation lakes: Oskăhtakaw Sākāhikan Jackpine Lake Gunna Teoway, and ‘Mrs. T’s Lake’. Completed in 2010, Jackpine Lake has developed into a productive and diverse environment for fish and fish habitat, offsetting ecological and physical requirements impacts, as part of the Jackpine Mine Project. The naming of the lakes stems from a collaborative process with local stakeholders from the Fort McKay Community Advisory Group.

Canadian Natural is sharing learnings and data with stakeholders and other operators to assist their compensation of lost fish habitat. We are also funding a five-year research program with the University of Alberta and Mitacs Converge to help establish guidelines for sustainable compensation lakes. This project will deploy leading-edge technology and the latest methods in ecosystem development to monitor and assess fish habitat health, and determine best practices moving forward. We are testing new monitoring techniques to better understand fish population dynamics.

Left: Aerial picture of the stakeholder pavilion and Horizon Lake. Centre: Members of Fort Chipewyan Métis Local 125 and McMurray Métis Local 1935 with Canadian Natural stakeholder relations advisors during a tour of the Athabasca Oil Sands Project (AOSP) at Oskăhtakaw Sākāhikan Jackpine Lake Gunna Teoway. Right: Horizon tour with repesentatives from Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation and Mikisew Cree First Nation.