Le Lézard
Classified in: Oil industry, Environment
Subjects: PSF, ENI, NTA, DEI

ACFN demands action and accountability from the Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) and Imperial for multiple toxic tailings leaks and spill at Kearl

FORT McMURRAY, AB, March 2, 2023 /CNW/ - "Since May 2022, Imperial Oil and the Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) have covered up unprecedented failures of tailings dams and toxic tailings leaks and spill at the Kearl mine," said Chief Adam of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation. "They've been keeping this information from the public, instead of protecting the environment and the downstream Indigenous communities. "

It took nearly a year before Imperial informed downstream Indigenous communities of the unprecedented failures of four separate tailings ponds at their Kearl site, northwest of Fort McMurray. Notification only occurred after the AER finally issued an environmental protection order on Feb 6, 2023 when at least 5.3 million additional liters of toxic chemicals spilled into the environment, and containment has not been achieved.

"Imperial and AER have failed to protect the public," continued Chief Adam. "ACFN raised concerns about the tailings dams during the environmental assessment in 2007, but the AER approved them anyway. We were told that this wouldn't happen. And then when it did happen, Imperial didn't inform us, and the AER didn't do anything to protect us. When Imperial advised the AER that toxic tailings were leaking in May 2022, the AER failed to act for months. What's more, when the AER Issued a Notice of Noncompliance to Imperial in September, 2022 it did so secretly. Both Imperial and the AER failed to give notice or take action to keep the public and Indigenous communities safe."

"Why are we being kept in the dark? Why didn't Imperial or the AER inform the public and about these failures? There are no good answers to these questions, and that should make everyone, whether you are an investor, a citizen, or a harvester very concerned," Chief Adam exclaimed.

ACFN arranged its own helicopter tour of the site on February 25, 2023. Although Imperial claims that crews are working to contain the spill, ACFN saw no evidence of activity at the leak locations. Production is continuing as usual; a few hundred meters away from one of the leaks, several pipes were still filling the tailings pond. ACFN monitors also observed 3 moose within 100 meters of the leak.

"This does not appear to be a simple accident, but a systemic failure of Imperials' tailing ponds," added Chief Adam, "The failure of one pond might be explained as a malfunction, but the failures of four ponds suggests much bigger problems at the Kearl site. And these are just the ones we know of. ACFN is concerned that Imperial may not have adequate procedures or infrastructure to contain their tailings. This incident must be fully investigated so we can get to the bottom of this."

ACFN has issued an advisory to harvesters not to eat any wild meat that was harvested downstream of the Kearl site after May 2022. ACFN is also demanding independent studies by technical experts and ACFN land users to assess the true extent of the failure.

"We need to see immediate action to protect people and the environment. These toxic leaks must be contained, and the causes of Imperial's tailings pond failures must be determined or production will need to be discontinued," concluded Chief Adam. "Those who decided not to inform the public of these failures must be held accountable. Our members and all Albertans are owed explanations and immediate actions!"

Chief Adam is available for comment on this matter.

What: Press Briefing on Imperial Tailings Spill
Who: Chief Allan Adam, Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation
When: Thursday, March 2nd, 2023 at 10am MST
Where: Virtual Only Join Zoom Meeting: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/87516276406 
Meeting ID: 875 1627 6406

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SOURCE Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation

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