Oil sands tailings dykes are currently licensed/approved as ?dams? under the Alberta Water Act and are regulated by the Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) Dam Safety Department. Tailings dyke de-licensing/decommissioning is one of the important and necessary steps towards obtaining a Reclamation Certificate for the reclaimed tailings ponds.
The need for de-licensing oil sands tailings dykes has been gaining attention in recent years as the first oil sands tailings ponds are now being closed and reclaimed. The Oil Sands Tailings Dam Committee recently (March 2014) completed a guidance document, De-Licensing of Oil Sands Tailings Dams. The primary focus of the committee was to outline a process whereby tailings dykes can be transitioned to solid mine waste structures. The scope of the document was limited to the structural aspects of the tailings dyke (i.e., geotechnical and hydrotechnical stability) for the final stages of its lifecycle.
Aside from the structural aspects, it is recognized that all activities related to design, construction, operation, and decommissioning of the oil sands tailings facility throughout its lengthy life stages will directly influence the success of closure/reclamation and could profoundly impact the state-of-readiness of a facility for de-licensing. This paper examines the challenges and opportunities for de-licensing an oil sands tailings dam from the lifecycle perspective, and proposes an approach for the oil sands operators to integrate those challenges and opportunities within their de-licensing process/program as they prepare for de-licensing in accordance with the De-Licensing of Oil Sands Tailings Dams guidelines.
Al-Mamun, M., B. Chin and N. Eenkooren. 2014. “Oil Sands Tailings Dyke De-Licensing – State-of-Readiness from Tailings Pond Lifecycle Perspective,” in CDA 2014 Annual Conference, Banff, Alberta, October 4-9, 2014. Canadian Dam Association.
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