Review of Reclamation Options for Oil Sands Tailings Substrates

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  • BGC Engineering Inc. (BGC) conducted a scoping study of the state of knowledge related to technologies for reclaiming oil sands tailings substrates to upland boreal forests and wetlands for the Oil Sands Research and Information Network (OSRIN). The objective of the scoping study is to help establish an understanding of the status of fine tailings reclamation technology in the Athabasca Oil Sands Region (AOSR). Relevant research was compiled from peer reviewed and non-peer reviewed sources including journals, conference proceedings, magazine articles, internal and consultant reports. Industry researchers and academics were contacted for their information. Until recently, a wet landscape scenario, in which mature fine tailings (MFT) would be stored in pits and capped with a layer of freshwater to form an artificial lake, was the most likely reclamation option for MFT. In this scenario, pit lakes (PL), or end-pit lakes (EPL) are designed to remediate process-affected waters from tailings landforms through bioremediation and dilution. As an alternative to water-capping, much of the current research has focused on reclamation technologies that would result in a dry landscape. Reclamation of fine tailings using a dry landscape scenario first requires stabilization of the deposit to allow access for heavy machinery (trafficability). Soil cover designs and revegetation prescriptions are used to reclaim the tailings substrate to an equivalent land capability or ecosystem function. Wetland design and upland forest reclamation are active areas of research in fine tailings reclamation, including the potential impacts of increased salinity on plant species selection, germination and growth.

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    Attribution 3.0 International