Canadian Forest Service Publications

Challenges and opportunities: oil sands mine reclamation in the boreal forest of northern Alberta, Canada. 2017. Pinno, B. Reclamation Matters, Fall 2017:22-26.

Year: 2017

Issued by: Northern Forestry Centre

Catalog ID: 38934

Language: English

Availability: PDF (request by e-mail)

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Plain Language Summary

Northern Alberta is home to a large reserve of oil sands in the heart of the boreal forest. After mining companies cease operations on a site, they are required to reclaim the land to create functioning forest ecosystems—it is not sufficient to create simple timber plantations or agricultural fields. This article provides a snapshot of the issues associated with reclaiming oil sands sites in northern Alberta. Vegetation on reclaimed land must be able to withstand the region’s harsh climate, but the climate can also be an advantage: for instance, it limits the number of problematic weed species. The boreal forest has an abundance of quality reclamation soils rich in organic matter and other nutrients. Soils with suitable chemical properties must be chosen to offset the high pH and salinity that are often found at reclamation sites. The two major reclamation cover soils are forest floor mineral mix (taken from upland forests) and peat mineral mix (taken from wetlands), which offer different advantages and disadvantages. The question is now being asked about how to combine these soils across the landscape to maximize their overall benefit. Research on reclamation is expected to pay great dividends as reclamation activities ramp up around 2030.