Translating the Closure Plan into an Operational Reclamation Programme at Canadian Natural’s Horizon Oil Sands Mine

Steve Tuttle
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The conceptual Horizon Reclamation and Closure Plan was filed in 2002 in support of the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) as a green field project application with an updated Closure and Reclamation Plan submitted in 2006. The Horizon Project reclamation goal is to achieve self-sustaining ecosystems with a capability equivalent to predevelopment conditions using locally common boreal forest communities as the template for revegetation activities. Self-sustaining ecosystems will evolve on reclaimed areas, from these new plantings to mature vegetation communities typical of the region. Within any organisation, the implementation of new processes can test the systems that have been used as well as understanding the pressures and incentives to taking on new activities, such as reclamation. As a green field operation, Horizon Oil Sands has reclaimed the area for the compensation lake in 2008, but had not completed reclamation of any structures associated with the development of the mine until 2010 as the mining activities and processing of the oil sands started in early 2009. As a result of development of this new mine, Waste Area 1 was the first available mine structure upon which reclamation could be conducted. There have been a number of learning elements from the implementation of reclamation for Horizon Oil Sands Waste Area 1 that will be useful in helping reduce the challenges of future on site reclamation activities. The systems and methods for turning the conceptual closure plan into an operational reclamation program are the focus of this paper.