Last I was in Edmonton, my host exclaimed loudly when his Blackberry told him the ERCB were going to have on their website all the documents submitted to tell how oil sand companies will reclaim and close their tailings impoundments. That promised to be a signal day in the history of tailings impoundment closure and regulatory compliance.
For those of you who do not follow the arcane process of regulatory compliance regarding oil sand tailings in Alberta, a briefing: the ERCB is charged with concurring in oil sands tailings impoundment closure. A while ago they issued a regulation that said in effect: place only dry tailings capable of supporting equipment; but if you have an existing impoundment where you cannot do this, please tell us what you will do, and then please do it.
Thus a tailings aficionado like me is agog at the prospect of seeing industry submittals telling how the industry will comply with this unique requirement. The ERCB website promises:
The Energy Resources Conservation Board (ERCB) has received plans with dates for construction, use and closure of fluid tailings ponds from six Alberta oil sands operators as required by Directive 074: Tailings Performance Criteria and Requirements for Oil Sands Mining Schemes. Each of Albian Sands Energy Inc., Canadian Natural Resources Limited, Imperial Oil Resources Ventures Limited, Shell Canada Inc., Suncor Energy Ltd. and Syncrude have submitted tailings plans under Directive 074. The ERCB will now conduct a detailed and comprehensive technical review of the plans. The plans will not be approved until the ERCB is satisfied that they comply with ERCB requirements. Pending scanning into digital format, the plans will be available via the ERCB website. It is anticipated they will be available on Monday, October 5, 2009.
A mere ten days beyond the 5th and there is nothing on the ERCB site. Probably never will be, I guess. Too sensitive, too revealing, too confidential. Sad. Still I hope. Can you imagine the cornucopia? The plans from so many. The plans for so much. A new insight into ideas from bright minds. Let us hope the ERCB has not changed their mind and they are merely inundated by paper they are unable to process. It would not be the first time a regulatory agency is inert in the face of reports.
The conference on Tailings and Mine Waste Management is upcoming in Banff, Alberta the first week of November. Try to be there if you can. But do not set your hopes too high that the ERCB will be there in kind or in web postings. All you can do is keep coming back to the ERCB website in hope and curiosity