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Land Reclamation


    A reclaimed forest in the former west mine area.

    Gateway Hill is the first restored area in the oil sands to receive reclamation certification by the Alberta Government.

    Research on peat placement is helping efforts towards fen wetland restoration. Seen here, 2009 research plot.

    A herd of around 300 wood bison graze on land reclaimed from Syncrude mining operations.

  • To date, around 4,400 hectares of land at our operations in northern Alberta is either reclaimed or prepared for re-vegetation activities. This includes 3,200 hectares of permanently reclaimed land and 1,200 hectares of land capped with soil. To date, we've planted over 6 million tree and shrub seedlings throughout our reclaimed areas. (Please see note below regarding definition of reclamation.) 
  • In 2008, we received the first reclamation certification in the Canadian oil sands industry for the 104-hectare area known as Gateway Hill. This area was planted in the early 1980s and is Syncrude's most established reclaimed area. We will apply for additional government certification as other reclaimed areas mature. To view photographs of areas under reclamation, visit our Image Library.
  • At Syncrude, oil sands reclamation begins once the area is no longer being used as part of our active operation. In fact, it takes many years before we apply for government reclamation certification. In order to receive certification, we must prove the reclaimed land can sustain vegetation and wildlife similar to that before disturbance. Learn about the eight steps in reclamation here.
  • In collaboration with universities across Canada and the United States, we are pioneering the creation of a fen wetland through a research project at our former East Mine area. The fen is being established by placing peat and vegetation material, recovered from future mining areas, over a layer of composite tailings and sand.
  • In cooperation with the Fort McKay First Nation, we have successfully developed wood bison habitats. About 300 wood bison now graze on land reclaimed from oil sands mining and tailings operations. The quality of the herd continues to be recognized; awards were won by each of the Syncrude bison entered including the top prize of Reserve Grand Champion at both the 2006 Saskatchewan Bison Association Premium Stock show and the 2005 Wild Rose Classic bison show.  Due to the herd's excellent health, we are contributing to a genetics preservation project conducted by the Universities of Calgary and Saskatchewan, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, Parks Canada, the Government of the Northwest Territories and the Calgary Zoo. 
  • Syncrude is working with government agencies, local communities and other stakeholder groups to ensure land reclamation in the Boreal Forest achieves a wide range of land use capabilities, in tune with the needs and aspirations of the people in our region. The vision is to leave behind an area comprised of forests, parkland, wetland and lakes. This way the land will be able to support a new generation of economic and recreational uses, including forestry, bison ranching, hiking and fishing.



Note: In 2010, the Government of Alberta established a new definition for permanent reclamation. For an area to be considered reclaimed, the definition states it must be revegetated in accordance with government-approved plans. Syncrude's prior definition of a reclaimed area was land that, at a minimum, had been shaped, formed, capped with soil and ready for revegetation. Furthermore, in 2011, bison pasture land formerly considered permanent reclamation were reclassified as temporary reclamation. These changes resulted in the reclassification of land previously reported by Syncrude, lowering the number of hectares classified as permanent reclamation. We have amended our reclamation numbers to ensure consistency with government reports.


*Photo credit: Dr. Dale Vitt