Indigenous communities in Canada’s oil sands region on Monday called for Alberta’s energy regulator to be disbanded and replaced following a months-long toxic tailings seepage from Imperial Oil’s Kearl oil sands mine.
Community representatives were testifying to a parliamentary committee in Ottawa about the impact of the leak and ongoing concerns about oil sands tailings management.
Imperial, a unit of Exxon Mobil Corp first detected discoloured water near its Kearl site last May, but the company and the Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) failed to update local First Nations communities when testing showed the water contained tailings, a waste product of mining.
On Monday the federal government released details of a new working group to improve monitoring of environmental risks from oil sands tailings ponds. The group will include Indigenous leaders, federal and provincial governments, and oil sands company representatives.
After analyzing the situation, it is clear the seepage was not communicated to affected communities in a timely or appropriate way by the company or the provincial regulator, nor was the federal government made aware in a timely manner,” Canada’s Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault said in a statement.
The total volume of oil sands tailings held in ponds reached 1.35 billion cubic metres in 2021, according to the regulator.