Aboriginal Environment Commitment
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A unique partnership between Syncrude and the Fort McKay First Nation, the Beaver Creek Wood Bison Ranch celebrated 20 years of operation in 2013.

Environment and Consultation

Syncrude operates on the traditional lands of five First Nations. Since our earliest days, we have, where possible, accommodated the interests of the local First Nations and Métis Locals. We endeavour to earn support through relationship building and formal agreements that are aligned with our mutual interests, mitigate concerns, provide benefit to affected communities, and are in accord with Canadian law.

Our engagement with those affected by our operations is ongoing, and in specific cases is also triggered by regulatory applications that fall under the following laws and for which Syncrude may have a delegated duty to consult as directed by the government:

  • Oil Sands Conservation Act;
  • Alberta Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act, including Closure and Reclamation Plan renewals;
  • Alberta Water Act;
  • Federal government approvals or amendments (e.g.: Fisheries Act or Canadian Environmental Assessment Act); and
  • Licenses or permits that fall outside of existing Mineral Surface Leases (e.g.: winter exploratory drilling programs).

At the same time, we recognize Aboriginal people are important stakeholders regarding our environmental commitments and we work with them on such matters as end-land use, air quality and major project plans.

Beaver Creek Wood Bison Ranch

In 1993, Syncrude introduced a herd of wood bison into a reclaimed area to assess the capability of the landscape to support large mammals such as ungulates. Today, approximately 300 wood bison graze on 300 hectares of land at the Beaver Creek Wood Bison Ranch. The herd is managed cooperatively with the Fort McKay First Nation.

The health of the animals is monitored through annual veterinarian examinations. Due to the herd’s excellent health and disease-free status, it has become part of a genetic preservation project headed by scientists from the Universities of Calgary and Saskatchewan, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, Parks Canada, the Government of the Northwest Territories and the Calgary Zoo.

The herd has been recognized with several livestock awards at regional and national competitions. In 2010, the ranch received the highest bid for a female animal at the national show, followed with the title for Grand Champion Female in 2011.

In 2010, bison twins were born on the ranch. Not only is this rare in the bison species, but it was made even more extraordinary by the twins being male and female. Their birth gave researchers an opportunity to study whether freemartinism – a naturally-occurring genetic gender abnormality seen in cattle which causes infertility in female calves born with male twins – would also occur. After veterinary testing, it was confirmed the female was sterile. Research from this event is being collected and published to further the understanding and management of bison herds.

Aboriginal Employee Network

An Aboriginal employee network was established in 2013 to serve as a primary source of information and feedback on how well Syncrude is delivering on its commitments to First Nations and Métis communities, Syncrude’s reputation in those communities, and how effective our programs and activities are in meeting business objectives, such as recruitment and retention. The group also focuses on raising the awareness of Aboriginal culture within the Syncrude workforce through its Aboriginal Awareness Day held at the Mildred Lake site.

Community Health Studies

The potential health and environmental impacts of oil sands development are of great concern to people living and working around oil sands projects, including several regional Aboriginal communities. While air monitoring studies to date have not linked oil sands development to human health issues, we understand the communities’ concerns and agree this is an area that must undergo further study.

We believe oil sands development must happen in a way that ensures the health and safety of our employees and communities, and benefits their overall quality of life. To that end, we continue to work directly with industry partners, the Alberta government and Aboriginal communities to collect, monitor and share data that is critical to current and future regional health studies.