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

 

Open-pit oilsands mine decision is a real-time truth test of government promises

Blog entry by By Mike Hudema And Sheila Muxlow | January 24, 2011

(Originally printed in the Edmonton Journal) Politicians are known the world over for talking out of both sides of their mouths. They often make grand proclamations to win votes, to silence criticism, to placate opposition.

Alberta’s attempt to bully U.S. Environmental Protection Agency falls flat

Blog entry by Keith Stewart | January 24, 2011

I thought only the Brits could pull off this kind of discreet disdain, but there’s probably a little less swagger in the step of Alberta’s officialdom after a polite-bordering-on-condescending rebuke from the U.S. Environmental...

New online mapping tool shows Minister Kent why he must stop new tar sands mine

Feature story | January 20, 2011 at 11:18

Environmental groups today launched a new online mapping tool to give new federal Environment Minister Peter Kent a sense of the size and scale of the tar sands by overlaying a map of the mining projects over his home riding to drive home the...

Tar sands science panel: If you can’t trust the data, you can’t trust the decision

Blog entry by Keith Stewart | December 22, 2010

In the face of mounting scientific criticism, the federal government convened a panel of leading scientists to review the environmental monitoring system in the tar sands region. The Panel’s report is well worth a read: concise,...

Demonstrations ramp up at COP16

Blog entry by Melina Laboucan-Massimo | December 7, 2010

Last week inside the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in Cancun there were a number of protests at the Moon Palace. These actions took place alongside a vast array of civil society events during the week and into the weekend...

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