EDMONTON — Alberta’s energy industry has found that cleaning up oil sands tailings is much harder than it thought.

The province’s energy regulator says all oil sands companies affected by tailings reduction rules missed what were supposed to be legally binding targets — some by wide margins. All were given extra years to meet reductions that should have been done by now.

“It’s tougher than they thought,” Terry Abel of the Energy Resources Conservation Board said Tuesday. “It’s tougher than we thought, too.”

Reclaiming mine tailings has been one of the industry’s major environmental challenges. Much of that waste material is composed of particles so fine they take years or even decades to settle out of tailings ponds. Without a way to hasten the process, oil sands tailings ponds have grown from 50 square kilometres in 2006 to 176 square kilometres now.

Source: Financial Post ; See full article