Professional Judgment in Mineable Oil Sands Reclamation Certification: Workshop Summary

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  • On June 18, 2012, the Oil Sands Research Information Network (OSRIN) convened a workshop to solicit the expert views from about 50 technical specialists from a variety of disciplines representing about 850 years of experience. The workshop, entitled Information That Professionals Would Look for in Mineable Oil Sands Reclamation Certification sought to document the field experience and “common sense” that a seasoned field specialist brings to the reclamation certification decision process. The workshop was coordinated with the Reclamation Working Group (RWG) of the Cumulative Environmental Management Association (CEMA) to provide additional information in support of their Criteria and Indicators Framework project. With some basic information on the hypothetical lands subject to a reclamation certificate application being considered, the groups were given three different scenarios to analyze from the viewpoint of their professional experience and technical knowledge: Session One: You are going to visit a reclaimed oil sands mine site and decide if a reclamation certificate should be issued. You have only your five senses, experience and common sense to guide your decision. • What positive and negative features do you look for? • How confident (%) would you be that your decision is correct (i.e., mean and range)? Session Two: Next, when you go onto the site you can bring one piece of equipment or one tool. • What would you bring? • What additional information will it provide for your assessment of the site? • How much extra time (and time consuming logistics) would it add to your assessment of the site? • Now how confident are you (%) in your assessment decisions (mean and range)? Session Three: Next, in addition to your senses, experience, and the additional equipment you brought, you can ask for a report(s) regarding the site before the field assessment. • What information would you want to see in the report/documents? • Now, how confident are you (%) in your decision (mean and range)? Session Four: For the final session in the workshop, the groups were asked to provide their comments on one of seven questions: 1. What do we need to know about contamination and remediation? 2. What advice can you give CEMA on criteria and the certification process? 3. Do expectations and process needs change depending on the reclamation goal(s)? 4. Do expectations and process needs change depending on when the site was reclaimed (i.e., older sites, currently reclaimed sites, sites reclaimed in the future)? 5. How long do we monitor for before applying for a reclamation certificate? 6. Do expectations and process needs change based on landform type (e.g., dump, tailings pond, Dedicated Disposal Area, plant site)? 7. What disciplines are missing from the discussion today? The original intent of the workshop was to supplement the science-based reclamation certification criteria and indicators being developed by the Reclamation Working Group of the Cumulative Environmental Management Association with the knowledge and experience used by people with significant field experience. Although valuable suggestions about criteria were received, the discussions seemed to focus more on the information needs and process for assessing certification, suggesting the need for a Guide to the Reclamation Certification Process. The workshop also sought to determine how confidence in decision making is affected by the use of field equipment/tools, and the value of background data and reports in increasing confidence. Given the extensive experience of the workshop participants, it was surprising to see how little confidence they had in using only their knowledge and experience to make reclamation certification decisions. Their confidence in making decisions increased somewhat if they were able to bring a piece of equipment into the field with them. If they were able to review a high quality report and supporting data from the site’s historical file prior to going into the field their confidence increased substantially. This confirms the need for the CEMA RWG Criteria and Indicators work and suggests the need for a Guide to Reclamation Certification Application Content.

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    Attribution 3.0 International