Tar sands

Aerial view of Syncrude Aurora tar sands mine in the Boreal Forest north of Fort McMurray. © Greenpeace / Jiri Rezac

Greenpeace is calling on oil companies and the Canadian government to stop the tar sands and end the industrialization of a vast area of Indigenous territories, forests and wetlands in northern Alberta.

The tar sands are huge deposits of bitumen, a tar-like substance that’s turned into oil through complex and energy-intensive processes that cause widespread environmental damage. These processes pollute the Athabasca River, lace the air with toxins and convert farmland into wasteland. Large areas of the Boreal forest are clearcut to make way for development in the tar sands, the fastest growing source of greenhouse gas emissions in Canada.

Greenpeace is also concerned with the social and health costs of the tar sands. First Nations communities in the tar sands report unusually high levels of rare cancers and autoimmune diseases. Their traditional way of life is threatened. Substance abuse, suicide, gambling and family violence have increased in the tar sands. Meanwhile, the thousands of workers brought in by oil companies face a housing crisis in northern Alberta.

Enbridge Inc.'s tar sands tanker pipeline proposal threatens to allow a 30 per cent expansion in tar sands development. Enbridge's tar sands pipeline would span 1,170 kilometres from Hardisty, Alberta to Kitimat, in the Great Bear Rainforest in British Columbia. Over the past decade, Enbridge's own pipelines spilled an average of more than once a week. The pipeline would cross over 1,000 rivers and streams and the Rocky Mountains on the way to B.C.'s pristine coastline. The pipeline would bring more than 200 crude oil tankers through some of the world's most treacherous waters each year.

How Greenpeace works to stop the tar sands

  • Pressuring governments: The governments of Alberta and Canada actively promote tar sands development and ignore international commitments Canada has made to cut greenhouse gas emissions. Through direct action, we draw international attention to government climate crimes in the tar sands and demand change.
  • Educating shareholders: We meet with Canadian and international shareholders in oil companies and discuss the investment risks associated with the tar sands.
  • Working with impacted communities: We reach out to landowners and First Nations affected by the tar sands and stand in solidarity with them.

The latest updates

 

An open letter to Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver

Blog entry by Christine Leclerc | January 10, 2012

Between 1999 and 2008 Enbridge pipelines spilled oil 610 times . That's more than one spill a week for nine years. Record numbers of people have registered as intervenors in the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipelines Joint Review Panel...

Why Harper’s Kyoto Pullout Is a Death Sentence for Many of World’s Most Vulnerable

Blog entry by Mike Hudema | December 13, 2011

For a vulnerable country like Tuvalu, its an act of sabotage on our future. —Ian Fry, Tuvalu lead negotiator Yesterday I commented that the Harper government pulling out of Kyoto is essentially a death sentence on vulnerable...

Harper government Kyoto withdrawal issues death sentence to world's most vulnerable

Blog entry by Christine Leclerc | December 12, 2011

Environment Minister Peter Kent, just back from COP17 in Durban, has announced Canada's pulling out of the Kyoto Protocol. The Kyoto Protocol is a cornerstone of international climate negotiations and plays a key role in addressing the...

Fame Drain, Toxic Relationships & more!

Feature story | December 5, 2011 at 9:00

Greenpeace’s GP In Touch uses humour and a little star power to bring home a big point. Fact is, the ridiculously cozy relationship between our publicly elected officials and the private oil industry is a scandal worthy of the trashiest gossip rags.

It’s time to Draw the Line at the tar sands – Add your voice!

Blog entry by Hilary Tam | December 2, 2011 1 comment

We’ve heard from lots of people who’ve had it with the reckless expansion of the tar sands. And while we love to hear their personal stories about why they want to “draw the line” at the tar, we thought it’d be much more interesting to...

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