Fort McKay First Nation’s involvement in reclamation of Alberta’s oil sands development Buffalo, K.; Jones, C.E.; Errington, J.C.; MacLean, M.I.A.
Fort McKay is a Cree, Dene and Métis community situated in the epicentre of Alberta’s oil sands developments and the people of Fort McKay believe that this development is limiting their ability to carry out cultural activities within their Traditional Lands and that this has significant adverse effects on the maintenance of their cultural heritage. The Community has existed on their Traditional Lands for generations and places great value on the land and all that the land supports. Fort McKay has major concerns associated with both the “loss of land” and the condition of this land following mine closure and reclamation. The existing approved and proposed mine developments will ultimately occupy hundreds of thousand hectares of land and will not be fully reclaimed until the latter half of this century, with the likelihood that a further 10 to 20 years will be needed before the land can be certified as reclaimed. This means that the land occupied by these mines will be alienated from two to three generations of Fort McKay people. Fort McKay and the group of specialist consultants employed to work on behalf of the Community have worked closely with the Alberta government and oil sands developers to express the Community’s concerns and to push both industry and government to work towards meeting the immediate and long term objectives. Although Fort McKay cannot take credit for the recent improvements in mine closure regulation and performance, Fort McKay has certainly had a strong voice which has helped lead to a number of changes in approval conditions. Changes which we have seen over recent years include improved regulations for salvage and replacement of topsoil, recent changes to the management of fluid fine tailings and the requirement to initiate large scale trials of techniques to reclaim land to peat accumulating wetlands (fens and bogs). In the future, Fort McKay will continue to strive for faster reclamation that will restore the land to premining conditions, will seek the complete elimination of fluid fine tailings especially those which will be stored under a water cap in an end pit lake, will seek to ensure that acceptable water quality will be achieved within a reasonable timeframe following closure and will seek to ensure that the reclaimed landscape will support the full range of traditional uses including medicinal plants, berries, hunting, fishing and trapping.
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