Criteria and Indicator Framework for Oil Sands Mine Reclamation

Mike Poscente
Theo Charette
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The Government of Alberta has recently approved the recommendation from the Cumulative Environmental Management Association (CEMA) that reclamation certification in the oil sands region of northern Alberta be supported by a criteria and indicators framework. To support development of the framework, use and implementation approaches of reclamation criteria and indicators within four jurisdictions across North America were examined and analysed, synthesising common elements, differences and adaptive capability. Results show that outcome-based criteria encourage innovations in reclamation techniques. Also, the use of criteria and indicators to inform reclamation certification decisions provides a higher level of credibility for decision makers, improves fairness between operators and increases certainty for the operator. Criteria and indicators remove the ambiguity between the operator and the regulator’s interpretation of mine approval conditions that mandate specific reclamation outcomes, by establishing clear performance criteria, indicators and measurement methods. In developing a framework, options must be considered for the setting of reclamation goals and objectives, the selection of criteria and indicators and for implementation approaches. Challenges need to be overcome by ensuring cooperation between the operator and regulator in determining how criteria and indicators will be used in the jurisdiction’s legislative and regulatory environment. Building adaptive management into the framework is important. New technologies and reclamation techniques will require the criteria and indicators to be refined over time. Changes to policy and/or regulation will require the rules defining the use of criteria and indicators to be updated, especially where they inform reclamation certification decisions.