Kingfisher August 2017

Reclamation project taking shape on former mine site

Aug 11, 2016

A new reclamation project is starting to take shape on Syncrude's former East Mine.

Planting was recently completed for the upland sections of the Kingfisher closure landscape, an 85-hectare area that combines both upland forest and lowlands.

“As people drive north along Highway 63, the Kingfisher area will eventually look similar to the Sandhill Fen with upland hummocks and low land sections,” says Eric Girard, Syncrude’s Vegetation Specialist.

Syncrude completed construction of the 57-hectare Sandhill Fen in 2012. Since then, the company has worked with seven universities on various research projects to study water, wetland and upland plants, the weather and soil. Some of what’s been learned is being applied to Kingfisher, although the area itself is not a research project.

Eric’s team completed planting of 13.7 hectares in two different blocks for Kingfisher in July. “We planted two different eco-sites with various trees native to the region,” Eric says. “Near the edge of the predicted wetter area, we planted black spruce and tamarack. In the upland area, we planted spruce, aspen and birch. Eight species of shrubs were also planted, including green alder, beaked hazelnut, Labrador tea and red osier dogwood." 

Like the rest of the East Mine, the Kingfisher reclaimed closure landscape sits atop composite tailings (CT - mixture of fluid fine tails, gypsum and sand deposited in a mined-out area to settle and release water). Construction started in 2014, when workers capped the CT deposit with tailings sand.

“We’ve completed sand placement in both the upland and lowland areas. We are monitoring the settlement of the composite tailings in the lowlands,” says Abu Arif, Senior Geotechnical Engineer with Operations Support – Tailings. “We will monitor the lowland settlement in the fall and if acceptable, hand over the area to Reclamation for further reclamation placement.”

The Kingfisher closure landscape will serve as the template for reclaiming the rest of the former East mine, which makes Abu very proud.

“We’re very excited about the project – it’s our baby, but we want to be patient and ensure its done right.”