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

 

10 reasons why Neil Young is right about the Tarsands:

Blog entry by mhudema | January 16, 2014

To say that rock legend Neil Young has been making waves on his ACFN ‘ Honour the Treaties ’ tour would be an understatement. His comments about the horrors of the tar sands have made front-page headlines, set social media ablaze, and...

Neil Young and Petropolis

Blog entry by Laura Severinac | January 15, 2014

Canadian musician Neil Young has created a media storm around his Canadian tour to help defend First Nation land against the unbridled expansion of the tar sands. Called 'Honor the Treaties ', all profits of the four-city tour will...

I stand with Neil Young and the ACFN

Blog entry by Mike Hudema | January 14, 2014 2 comments

When I first learned that Neil Young was going to put on four shows to help the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation (ACFN) and their legal battles against the damage the tar sands pose, I was excited. Young has always tried to...

How Grade 5 Students See the Tar Sands

Blog entry by Lisa Geier | December 16, 2013

Too often as adults we think that we know everything. We have already made decisions about things in our life, placed subjects, people and places in categories that are good and bad. We’ve weighed options, we’ve reflected and still,...

New study on “unburnable oil”: Arctic oil and tar sands must stay in the ground

Blog entry by Keith Stewart | December 9, 2013 1 comment

The January 2014 edition of the well-respected academic journal Energy Policy will include a study entitled “Un-burnable oil: An examination of oil resource utilization in a decarbonized energy system”. The study looks at what the...

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