WHAT ARE TAR SANDS?
The oil sands development is now considered the largest industrial project on the face of the planet.The tar sands or oil sands is what the name implies a gummy tar mixed with sand and clay called bitumen. The bitumen is being extracted from  (hundreds of square miles) pristine forests causing devastation of ecosystems the size of Belgium which  many scientists agree will never recover.

WHERE ARE THE TAR SANDS?

Tar sands are contained in three major areas beneath 140,800 square kilometres of north-eastern Alberta.

WHY IS THERE SO MUCH DAMAGE?
There are two ways to get at the bitumen. If close enough to the surface hundreds of feet of topsoil is gauged out from the forest thus leaving a landscape of gaping black pits. The bitumen is extracted from the soil and processed into synthetic crude oil  then piped to refineries.

When the tar sands are too deep it is injected with high-pressure steam while it is still in the ground to separate it from the sand then it can be piped to the surface.  This method may sound  better for the environment however vast amounts of natural gas are burnt to create the steam with CO2 emissions leaving a big carbon footprint rather than smaller one.
Because of the tar sands, Alberta emits an incredible 71 tonnes CO2 per capita (all Canada 17, UK 10 and Tanzania 0.2)

ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACTS
Enormous loss of boreal forests means a loss of a ecosytem with a  storage capacity of carbon that cannot be found else where globally.  As the forest shrinks the CO2 emissions rise and combined with the extraction and refining process the emissions on a daily basis are higher than all the cars being driven in Canada.

Whether scraping from the soil or injecting it with steam both methods require vast amounts of water. As much as 7 barrels (7,000 litres) of water is needed to produce just one barrel of oil, 1.4 million barrels are shipped every day. This tremendous waste of water cannot be recovered  in the case of topsoil extraction as most of the water (about 6,000 litres)is piped into tailing ponds. These toxic waters are so vast in size that they can be seen from space and are near a major bird breeding flight path.  This caused a devastating impact two years ago having mistaken it for fresh water, within hours of landing on a tailing pond 1,600 ducks were killed.

The indigenous people (called First Nations peoples in Canada) in Fort Chipewyan, Alberta have reported large increases in cancer  rates since the production of the tar sands began upstream from their home. Their environment has become so polluted that many of people will no longer drink the water. The fish in the rivers which makes a large part of their food source have become sick and inedible. The health and well being of indigenous people is being sacrificed.


THE TAR SANDS INDUSTRY NEEDS TO BE STOPPED IF WE ARE TO SUSTAIN A HEALTHY PLANET

Suncor Mining

Click here for more images of tar sands development.

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