OIL SAND
Juried Finalist
Jardins de Metis International Garden Festival - 15th Edition
47,832 hectares of boreal forest have been disturbed for oil sands mine development. Only 0.2% of this land has been certified as reclaimed.
In 2008 a 104 hectare parcel of land known as Gateway Hill was certified by the Government of Alberta as reclaimed and was subsequently returned from Syncrude Canada Ltd. to the public. Syncrude Canada Ltd. is the only company who has applied for reclamation certification and Gateway Hill is the only site that has been certified as reclaimed.
Within the Athabasca Boreal region, there are three active surface mining operations: Suncor Energy Inc., Albian Sands Energy Inc. and Syncrude Canada Ltd. The cumulative disturbance footprint of active, approved, and mines currently in the application process, amounts to over 191,000 hectares. (The municipality of Grand-Métis has a land area of approx. 2,550 hectares)
Reclamation is the final step mining companies are required to complete before mine closure. Defined in Alberta as the “stabilization, contouring, maintenance, conditioning or reconstruction of the surface of land,” reclamation is an essential component of responsible oil sands development.
How will this new reclaimed landscape be designed?
What habitats, ecologies, species will be prioritized?
Will futile efforts be made to return the land to a pre-extraction state or will we be able to see, beyond the environmental  destruction, our positive role as designers. And is so doing allow ourselves to understand the oils sands as the world’s largest human designed ecosystem.
In this site of intervention, sand will dominate as the foundation of future ecologies.
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