As Syncrude looks to reclaim a former mine, they will be looking at a past research project to ensure the land will be full of plants and wildlife.
Just over five years ago, Syncrude started its innovative reclamation project on the 57-acre Sandhill Fen, transforming it from a 60-metre deep mine and tailings pond to a wetland.
Several universities have also partnered on the project, checking the vegetation, wildlife, and insects.
While they continue to work on the Fen, their attention has also shifted to the 85-acre Kingfisher area, a section of the former east mine.
Syncrude’s Vegetation Specialist Eric Girard says they’re taking lessons from the research project, most importantly, managing water.
“It’s a big challenge, so it means we have to build the surrounding watershed so the water would come in large amounts to maintain a water level high enough to have a wetland.”
Girard notes they don’t have any set results.
The oil company still monitor’s the Sandhill Fen with water continuing to be an important aspect of the area as more will be needed as the vegetation continues to evolve.
Besides water, Girard adds soil plays a big part in the reclamation as different types, mineral, and peat, are needed “to get the wide range of species.”
“For the Sandhill Fen, we have peat forming plants, we have peat that is starting to form – a small layer,” added Girard. “It shows signs that we are on track but we still need to build the knowledge.”
A big part of the reclamation project is the wildlife. He notes they’ve seen many different species, some endangered, like bears, ducks, and other species of birds.
When the reclamation project is finished in both areas, Girard notes they will see the same percentage of wetlands and uplands as it was before the mine was started.