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Tar sands

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

Greenpeace is calling the Canadian government to stop the expansion of 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 region. Meanwhile, the thousands of workers brought in by oil companies face the boom and bust cycles of the oil economy rollercoaster.

Tar sands companies want to build new pipelines so that they can expand output in the tar sands. These pipelines would threaten thousands of rivers and streams across the country. The increased tanker traffic required to carry this oil would threaten our coastlines. Oil spills would devastate communities and existing livelihoods that depend on a health environment, while the greenhouse gas emissions from producing and burning the oil would fuel climate change.

We have better alternatives.  

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 and expose the investment risks associated with tar sands development.
  • Working with impacted communities: We reach out to landowners and First Nations affected by the tar sands amplify their voices and stand in solidarity with them.

The latest updates


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