The Alberta Energy Regulator has approved Suncor’s tailings management plan for its base plant oilsands mine.
In its approval announced Thursday, AER outlines concerns with the length of time remaining to resolve site-specific issues, as the Millenium mine is set to close in 2033.
The Energy Regulator says it must ensure that it has assurance Suncor’s fluid tailings will meet outcomes on time and that the approval conditions are clear and enforceable.
“AER has added research, monitoring, evaluation and reporting requirements to Suncor’s approvals to provide the information needed to verify the technology and deposit performance assumptions in order to ensure that Suncor’s performance is tracking to the objective and outcomes of the TMF,” the report reads.
Meanwhile, clean energy think-tank, Pembina Institue, is criticizing AER’s decision. In a statement posted on its website, policy analyst Jodi McNeill says Suncor’s plan relies on unproven technologies with 70-year long reclamation timelines.
“In addition to lack of ambition in tailings treatment, Suncor’s plan is not clear on how treated fluid tailings will be successfully and safely integrated into the Alberta landscape,” said McNeill.
Suncor’s first proposal was rejected by AER back in March as its remediation strategy for tailings didn’t have enough information to properly assess the risks and benefits.
The plan is a response to the energy regulators requirements put forward in 2016 calling for all fluid tailings to be ready to reclaim within 10 years of the end of the mine’s life. Syncrude, Shell, Imperial and Canadian Natural Resources Ltd have all submitted plans, with Suncor’s the first to be approved.
AER notes that Suncor’s approval doesn’t represent a precedent for other tailings management plan approvals.
“Each mine is unique.”