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

 

Steps to a better conservation outcome in the Lower Athabasca Region

Blog entry by Mike Hudema and Richard Brooks | April 7, 2011

The Alberta government’s proposed Lower Athabasca Regional Plan was released April 5. We believe there are many problems with the plan and it will not deliver on what is needed from an ecological perspective for this already heavily...

Report: In situ operations in tar sands no better than open-pit mining

Feature story | April 7, 2011 at 10:58

Edmonton- A new report released today by Greenpeace Canada debunks industry claims that in situ tar sands operations are less environmentally destructive than open-pit mining, while giving voice to those most affected by the operations.

Tar party: The Koch brothers come to Canada to protect their tar sands interests

Blog entry by Keith Stewart | March 31, 2011

This was originally published on Rabble.ca  The first time I heard of the Koch brothers, I was out for beer with some friends I hadn't seen since high school. We were sharing what we'd been up to, and one of them looked at me...

Want to be the captain of an oil tanker?

Blog entry by Stephanie Goodwin | March 28, 2011

The people in downtown Vancouver got a taste of the tough turns and hazards facing oil tankers if Enbridge's proposal to build oil pipelines to BC's Great Bear Rainforest is built.  Across the street from Enbridge's office,...

Ten-year-old First Nations girl urges Ottawa to ban oil tankers from B.C.’s north coast

Feature story | March 24, 2011 at 11:00

Vancouver — Ten-year-old Ta’Kaiya Blaney from North Vancouver, B.C., has a message for Canadian MPs on the 22nd anniversary of the Exxon Valdez oil spill: don’t let our shores meet a similar disastrous fate.

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