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Topsoil is removed from areas to be mined. It is saved for later use in reclamation. Responsible Development

Clean energy is one of the biggest challenges of our time. Overcoming the obstacles will require efforts from all of us around the world. We’ll have to change the way we think about and use energy, alter our consumption patterns, and consider our responsibilities in a global context.



Development Regulations

The Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) ensures appropriate precautions are taken to develop oil sands resources in the interests of all Albertans. This happens through regulation, reviewing applications, managing conditions and approvals, surveillance, and enforcement.

AER oil sands requirements, which industry must abide by, exist to maintain public safety during mining and extraction, in situ injection and production, and upgrading.

Land-use Framework

The Alberta government is implementing a Land-use Framework in response to pressure on land and natural resources. The framework is a new approach to manage natural resources and public and private lands to achieve Alberta’s long-term economic, environmental and social goals.

The framework identifies seven planning regions, including the Lower Athabasca Region, where most of the oil sands are located. The Lower Athabasca Regional Plan provides blueprints for land management to address growth pressures, including development of the oil sands. It aims to strike a new balance between development and conservation in the region.

The Alberta Biodiversity Monitoring Institute data and reports help establish biodiversity outcomes for regional plans under the framework. Land-use planning and management success can then be evaluated against these biodiversity outcomes. An institute core report on birds and vascular plants in the Lower Athabasca shows a species intactness of 94% and a human footprint index of 7%. Future reports will provide information in trends in biodiversity as the growth and development proceed.


Oil Sands Development


1. Operators Apply:

  • File application for development with the provincial Alberta Energy Regulator and federal Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency.
  • Consult with Aboriginal people and other directly affected stakeholders.

2. Regulators Decide:

  • Review the application; could include an environmental impact assessment
  • Issue public notice; accept statements of concern
  • Hold quasi-judicial public hearing if objections are received
  • Decides in the public interest whether the project will proceed

3. Conditions are Set:

  • Rules for construction, operations, reclamation and closure are set
  • Construction begins
  • Compliance with conditions in approvals is required 

More information