There are some things that the Tailings Management Framework does not address such as waterfowl protection, dam safety, and emissions from tailings ponds. These important issues are already being addressed through our regulatory requirements. You will find some information on how the AER regulates them below. Public safety and environmental protection is our top priority and we have strong regulations in place to oversee the efficient, safe, orderly, and environmentally responsible development of Alberta’s energy resources.
Oil sands mining operators must submit a waterfowl protection plan as a part of their Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act approval. Oil sands mining operators use a variety of audio and visual means to deter waterfowl from landing on tailings ponds.
Following the Fall 2014 waterfowl incident on tailings ponds near Fort McMurray, the AER undertook an initiative with the University of Alberta to review existing wildlife protection requirements for tailings ponds. The desired outcome is to determine the effectiveness of the current requirements and identify any improvements. .
On March 2014, the AER assumed responsibility from Alberta Environment and Parks (formerly Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development) for regulating tailings ponds used in the development of Alberta’s energy resources.
The AER has a strong regulatory process that includes the regular inspection of oil sands tailings dams. We ensure that all regulated dams are designed, constructed, operated, maintained, and decommissioned safely.
The AER takes dam safety seriously. Responding to the Auditor General recommendations as a result of the dam safety audit (conducted on the Alberta Environment and Parks damn safety program), the AER launched an inspection program to inspect all 65 AER-regulated dams, by the end of October 2015, and results will be made public.
The AER requires that emissions from tailings ponds be measured by operators.
Alberta Environmental Monitoring, Evaluation and Reporting Agency (AEMERA) also conducts continuous monitoring for ambient air quality near tailings facilities and compares the measurements to ambient air quality guidelines.
Fugitive emissions from tailings ponds are measured under by the Joint Oil Sands Monitoring Program, a program that is co-lead by AEMERA and Environment Canada and is supported by AER to ensure that emissions are properly characterized and understood.
Results are shared with the health regulators in the province of Alberta.