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


Tears can’t turn back the rising oceans: Action can.

Blog entry by mhudema | September 15, 2011 4 comments

Tears can’t turn back the rising oceans: Action can. My eyes welled up with tears and anger when I read the latest report from the Maldives’ Environment Minister Mohamed Aslam. He painted a very clear picture of the urgency...

Killing wolves is not the answer

Blog entry by Catharine Grant, Forest Campaigner | September 13, 2011 1 comment

Update: Take action now! Federal Environment Minister Peter Kent says that thousands of wolves may be shot in an effort to safeguard woodland caribou populations in Alberta . Instead of focussing on the real cause of caribou...

Tar sands companies need to change what they do, not how they spin it

Blog entry by Keith Stewart | September 9, 2011 1 comment

It’s been a rough few weeks for the tar sands lobby. We’ve just seen the largest act of civil disobedience in the U.S. in decades , and it was calling on President Obama to live up to his commitment to take action on climate change by...

From Alberta, with love. (Obama: Choose HOPE not Tar Sands!)

Blog entry by jewilson | August 30, 2011

The vacation is over and this weekend, it's back to reality for President Obama. While the President has been in Martha’s Vineyard, hundreds of people have been uniting outside the White House with a message for Obama: deny the permit...

Risking arrest to turn the tide on climate action: Why I’m going to Ottawa on...

Blog entry by Keith Stewart | August 25, 2011 5 comments

I’ve spent the last twelve years of my life talking to people about the risks posed by climate change, writing reports on solutions, and politely asking government leaders and corporate executives to take action. I think it’s important...

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