News Release 2011-01-27

 

News Release 2011-01-27

News Release 2011-01-27 (NR2011-01)

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Joint Review Panel issues report on TOTAL Joslyn North Mine project

For immediate release

Calgary, Alberta (Jan 27, 2011)… The Joint Review Panel (Panel) established to review the Joslyn North Mine Project (the project) has released Decision 2011-005, which grants conditional approval to TOTAL E&P Joslyn Ltd. (TOTAL) to construct and operate the project. The project would include construction, operation, and reclamation of an oil sands surface mine and bitumen extraction facility to be located about 70 kilometres north of Fort McMurray with initial operations planned for 2017.

The report follows a public hearing the Panel held from September 21, 2010 through October 8, 2010, in Fort McMurray and Sherwood Park, Alberta.

The project would increase Alberta’s approved mineable project area by about seven per cent.

The decision places 20 conditions on TOTAL related to environmental and technical aspects of the project, including tailings and reclamation management (Backgrounder attached).

The Panel makes one recommendation jointly to the Government of Alberta and Government of Canada, 13 recommendations to the Government of Alberta, and three joint recommendations to the Government of Alberta and the Energy Resources Conservation Board (ERCB).

To address the effects of the project and cumulative effects on species at risk and valued wildlife, the Panel recommends that, prior to any authorization of the project, Alberta Sustainable Resource Development consult with Environment Canada as appropriate, and work with TOTAL to ensure that additional mitigation measures are identified to ensure that the project would not cause significant adverse effects to species at risk and valued wildlife.

The Panel concludes that the project, meeting the conditions and recommendations, would:

  • meet the stringent new requirements for tailings management of the ERCB’s Directive 074: Tailings Performance Criteria and Requirements for Oil Sands Mining Schemes,

  • have no net significant adverse effect on species at risk,

  • have no significant adverse effect on valued wildlife species, and

  • have no significant adverse environmental effect on water quality.

In addition, the Panel finds that Total has:

  • obtained the withdrawal of objections concerning the project from the Fort McKay First Nation, the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation, the Mikisew Cree First Nation, and the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo by having entered into agreements with them, and

  • committed to project and collective research toward making end pit lakes part of self sustaining ecosystems.

Accordingly, the Panel finds that the project is in the public interest.

The federal Minister of the Environment and the chair of the ERCB appointed the joint review panel in August 2008.

The Panel report is available on the ERCB Web site at www.ercb.ca. A summary can be found on the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency's Web site at www.ceaa-acee.gc.ca.

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For more information, please contact:

Davis Sheremata
Phone: 403-605-4216
E-mail: Davis.Sheremata@ercb.ca
Media line: 1-855-474-6356

NR2011-01

Backgrounder

TOTAL Joslyn North Mine Project

The TOTAL Joslyn North Mine Project (the project) would include an open pit, truck and shovel mine, ore handling facility, bitumen extraction facilities, tailings processing facilities, support infrastructure, water and tailings management plans, and an integrated reclamation plan. The project is designed to produce a total of about 16 000 cubic metres per day (100 000 barrels per day) of bitumen. The proposed project would be constructed in two phases, each designed to produce about 8000 cubic metres per day (50 000 barrels per day) of bitumen.

Conditions

Condition 1 – TOTAL will submit a detailed tailings management plan two years before commencement of operations, and TOTAL will clearly demonstrate its ability to meet all requirements of Directive 074. (Section 5.1.3)

Condition 2 – TOTAL will devise methods for measuring fines at the project in accordance with Energy Resources Conservation Board requirements. (Section 5.1.3)

Condition 3 – TOTAL will notify the Energy Resources Conservation Board in writing of any proposed pilot plants and/or demonstration plants for all technology development at least six months before construction of those facilities begins. (Section 5.1.3)

Condition 4 – TOTAL will provide written updates of any previously submitted test reports by no later than February 28 each year, or as otherwise specified by the Energy Resources Conservation Board. (Section 5.1.3)

Condition 5 – TOTAL will not exceed three million cubic metres of fluid in the sand beach area sumps. (Section 5.1.3)

Condition 6 – One year prior to plant start-up, TOTAL will provide measurement plans to the Energy Resources Conservation Board for review and approval, including process and instrumentation diagrams, metering, sampling methods, analytical methods and, material balance procedures that satisfy Energy Resources Conservation Board measurement requirements. (Section 5.2.2)

Condition 7 – TOTAL will not discharge any untreated froth treatment tailings to the tailings disposal area. (Section 5.3.2)

Condition 8 – On an annual average basis, TOTAL will limit site-wide solvent losses to not more than four volumes per thousand volumes of bitumen production under any operating conditions. (Section 5.3.2)

Condition 9 – On an annual average basis, TOTAL will limit the amount of asphaltene rejection to 10 mass per cent based on bitumen production. (Section 5.4.2)

Condition 10 – TOTAL will submit detailed geotechnical designs for all external overburden disposal areas and reclamation stockpiles to the Energy Resources Conservation Board at least six months prior to conducting any field preparation in these areas. (Section 5.5.3)

Condition 11 – TOTAL will submit to the Energy Resources Conservation Board, for its review and approval, detailed geotechnical designs and setback distances for critical infrastructure two years prior to site preparation activities for the ore preparation plant pit, the west and southern final pitwall, and for the final pitwall design and assessed setback from the Ells River. (Section 5.5.3)

Condition 12 – TOTAL will provide Alberta Environment with a wildlife mitigation plan for approval prior to clearing any vegetation. The plan must achieve no net significant adverse effect on species at risk and deal with mitigating impacts to not only species at risk, but also valued wildlife. (Section 6.1.3)

Condition 13 – TOTAL will monitor noise levels at James Grandejambe’s cabin. Should noise levels exceed those outlined in Directive 038, TOTAL will ensure that mitigation measures are implemented and that Directive 038 compliance is met. (Section 9.6.3)

Condition 14 – TOTAL will maintain unimpeded access required for stakeholders to areas west of the project until the Moose Lake access management plan, or an equivalent, is implemented. (Section 9.7.3)

Condition 15 – TOTAL will actively support and participate in the Cumulative Environmental Management Association and other regional committees to develop and use its strategies to mitigate both development and regional cumulative environmental effects. (Section 10.1.3)

Condition 16 – TOTAL will limit the area of disturbance to 5000 hectares or less. (Section 10.1.3)

Condition 17 – TOTAL will remove all benching on mine discard structures prior to reclaiming them. (Section 10.1.3)

Condition 18 – TOTAL will provide sustainable watershed designs with vegetated watercourses for geotechnical design applications for mine discard structures. Landform watershed designs should be consistent with regionally recognized guidelines for the purpose of erosion management. (Section 10.1.3)

Condition 19 – TOTAL will provide an amended mine plan to demonstrate an integrated landform and landscape design for the Canadian Natural Resources Limited – TOTAL common mine boundary to the Energy Resources Conservation Board for approval five years prior to development. The amended plan must include a discussion of the feasibility of filling the trench area between the Joslyn North and Horizon projects with mine discard. The plan must also include a discussion of the alternatives considered by TOTAL. (Section 10.2.3)

Condition 20 – TOTAL will submit an annual report to the Energy Resources Conservation Board, starting two years prior to commencing mining operations, that describes its end pit lake research and development efforts for the previous year, and the current plans and timelines for determining the efficacy of its end pit lake within seven years of mine closure. This report will include all of TOTAL’s efforts and contributions with respect to collaboration on the demonstration of a full scale end pit lake. (Section 12.3)

Recommendations

Recommendation 1 — The Panel recommends that prior to any authorization of the project, Alberta Sustainable Resource Development consult with Environment Canada as appropriate, and work with TOTAL to ensure that additional mitigation, such as using off-site offsets, avoiding high quality habitat, and conducting research, be identified to ensure that the project would not cause significant adverse effects on species at risk. The new wildlife mitigation plan should not only deal with mitigating impacts on species at risk and valued wildlife, but should also reduce the overall cumulative effects to wildlife. These additional measures should be provided to Alberta Environment for inclusion in any Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act approval it may issue. (Section 6.1.3)

Recommendation 2 — The Panel recommends that the Energy Resources Conservation Board and Alberta Sustainable Resource Development cooperate to provide an assessment of the implications of resource sterilization to help Alberta Sustainable Resource Development in determining the most appropriate setback of the project from the Ells River. (Section 6.1.3)

Recommendation 3 — The Panel recommends that the Energy Resources Conservation Board and Alberta Sustainable Resource Development, in consultation with Environment Canada as appropriate, determine the appropriate mine development setbacks from the Athabasca River and the crest of the Ells River valley to ensure effective wildlife corridors and provide these setbacks to Alberta Environment to include in any Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act approval it may issue. (Section 6.1.3)

Recommendation 4 — The Panel recommends that Alberta Environment and Alberta Sustainable Resource Development, with advice from Environment Canada as appropriate, determine what combination of monitoring and follow-up measures TOTAL or the Cumulative Environmental Management Association should conduct and, based on the results of such work, implement such adaptive management measures as are necessary. (Section 6.1.3)

Recommendation 5 — The Panel recommends that, before the project begins, TOTAL develop and submit a detailed plan to Alberta Environment, in consultation with Environment Canada as appropriate, and to Alberta Sustainable Resource Development for review and approval, outlining its explicit plans to experiment with peat land and reclaim wetland. Alberta Environment should also require that TOTAL develop a follow-up and monitoring program in consultation with Alberta Sustainable Resource Development and Environment Canada, as appropriate, to determine the success of reclaimed wetlands. (Section 6.2.3)

Recommendation 6 — The Panel recommends that the federal and provincial governments work with the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment to develop specific water quality objectives for naphthenic acids. (Section 6.3.2.3)

Recommendation 7 — The Panel recommends to the Government of Alberta that it develop appropriate Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act approval requirements to address continuous benzene monitoring for compliance with the objectives. (Section 6.5.3)

Recommendation 8 — As changes to current source emission standards are reasonably foreseeable, the Panel recommends that TOTAL as well as proponents of new or expanding oil sands projects incorporate flexibility into their projects so that they can achieve compliance with future standards within a reasonable timeframe. (Section 6.5.3)

Recommendation 9 — The Panel recommends that Alberta Sustainable Resource Development use the Lower Athabasca Regional Plan process to protect key habitats for species at risk and to provide source habitat for species recolonization in the oil sands area. (Section 7.2.3)

Recommendation 10 — The Panel recommends that recommendations made by the Cumulative Environmental Management Association in the Terrestrial Ecosystem Management Framework be considered by the Government of Alberta for inclusion in the Lower Athabasca Regional Plan. (Section 7.2.3)

Recommendation 11 — The Panel recommends that SRD require that forest harvesting within the regional study area be done outside of the migratory bird breeding season
(i.e., from April 1 to August 31). (Section 7.2.3)

Recommendation 12 — The Panel recommends that the Government of Alberta continue to work with the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo to ensure that the supply of land for residential development and the necessary planning are in place to meet the existing and expected housing demand in the region. (Section 9.3.2)

Recommendation 13 — The Panel recommends that Alberta Sustainable Resource Development complete the Moose Lake access management plan to provide uninterrupted public access to areas traditionally used west of the proposed project. (Section 9.7.3)

Recommendation 14 — The Panel recommends that Alberta Environment establish measurable targets for increased indigenous vegetative biodiversity in the reclaimed landscape and the postclosure landscape. (Section 10.1.3)

Recommendation 15 — The Panel recommends that Alberta Environment, Alberta Sustainable Resource Development and the Energy Resources Conservation Board work collaboratively to establish direction and standards required for interlease oil sands mine watershed and landform design coordination. The initiative should address legislation and/or regulation requirements and consider recommendations of the Fort McMurray-Athabasca Oil Sands Subregional Integrated Resource Plan, the End Land Use Committee Recommendations, the Regional Sustainable Development Strategy, and any other requirement that may be established by Alberta to guide oil sands mine development on public lands. (Section 10.2.3)

Recommendation 16 — The Panel recommends that Alberta Environment include water quality management conditions in any Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act approval it may issue, to specifically address water quality concerns and ensure that the water in TOTAL’s end pit lake meets release quality criteria at closure. (Section 12.3)

Recommendation 17 — The Panel recommends that Alberta Environment include the following requirements in any Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act approval that it may issue for TOTAL to:

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  • provide functional plans to monitor end pit lake water quality and assess treatment options that TOTAL would implement to meet end pit lake water release criteria within seven years of mine closure;
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  • provide functional plans to ensure that the volume of process-affected water and porewater in the end pit lake does not exceed 15 million cubic metres, and
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  • refine, update, and validate the models used for predicting water quality in the end pit lake based on characterization of the process-affected water that TOTAL plans to transfer into the lake. (Section 12.3)