Shell Canada must analyze worst-case tailing dam failure and respect First Nations constitutional rights.

Edmonton, AB –  The Joint Review Panel studying the Jackpine Mine Expansion Project must require Shell Canada to provide better information on the risks and environmental consequences of a failure of the dams supposed to prevent toxic tar sands tailings from spilling into the Athabasca River, says Sierra Club Prairie.
“Catastrophic spills like BP Deep Horizon and Fukushima happened even though the public was told that they never would" said Chelsea Flook, Interim Director of Sierra Club Prairie.  “Shell has clearly failed to meet some base requirements fundamental to adequate environmental, treaty and human rights protection in the area,”
“The Joint Review Panel cannot allow proponents to evade their responsibility to conduct quantitative, public risk assessments of tailing dam failures any longer” said Stephen Hazell, advisor to Sierra Club Prairie. “The risks of a catastrophic tailing dam failure destroying the Athabasca can only increase as more tailing dams are built in the tar sands, and as global climate change increases risks of extreme precipitation events resulting in flash floods in the Athabasca River Basin.”
Jim Kuiper, a mining engineer who reviewed the draft Environmental Impact Statement for Sierra Club Prairie, reported that “the EIS fails to contain or discuss any type of risk analysis for the tailings impoundment including consideration of worst-case scenarios. This is surprising given that difficult tailings facility foundations conditions have been noted at similar sites in the area, and similarly in terms of volume of engineered fill, oil sands tailings facilities are amongst the largest earth structures in the world . . .The EIS for the Jackpine Mine Expansion Project proposal must include analysis of potential failures modes that could lead to catastrophic or otherwise significant impacts.”
Sierra Club Prairie’s submission stated, “Development is occurring at such as fast pace that each new EIS cannot fully consider cumulative effects; projects are being announced and approved faster than the cumulative impacts can be evaluated in impact statements.” The Joint Review Panel needs more information on how a catastrophic tailing dam breach would impact the constitutional and treaty rights of downstream First Nations.
Sierra Club Prairie’s submission on the adequacy of the Shell’s environmental impact statement is available on the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency public registry at
For More Information Please Contact:
Chelsea Flook, Interim Director, Sierra Club Prairie (780)722-1226

Stephen Hazell, Ecovision Law (613)422-1107


Subscribe to our E-Sierran Emails

User login