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

 

Threat to whales fueled by the Canadian government’s tar sands push

Blog entry by Charles Latimer and Mike Hudema | April 29, 2014

This has been a pretty bad week for whales and unless something is done it’s going to get a lot worse. In the Harper government’s relentless pursuit to push tar sands pipelines through to Canada’s east and west coasts, the...

Stop the tar sands, save a whale

Blog entry by Sarah King | April 23, 2014

Two months after a win for B.C.’s Pacific humpback whales in the Federal Court , they could lose the key to their continued recovery – the legal protection of their habitat.  The Harper government wants to give them a lesser at-risk...

Alberta Energy Regulator approves CNRL re-start in troubled tar sands region

Blog entry by Mike Hudema | April 23, 2014

If anyone thought that there was a changing of the guard at the Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) they should look no further than the decision it quietly released just before the Easter long weekend. The decision shows that whatever...

Talking to Transcanada on Twitter about Tar Sands

Blog entry by Keith Stewart | April 17, 2014

Act now to save the planet: IPCC report

Blog entry by mhudema | April 16, 2014 1 comment

The latest International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report was released on Sunday.  The report, perhaps the most hopeful of IPCC reports to date, had one clear message – we can save the planet but only if we start acting now. ...

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