Here’s a quick recap…Oil sands are a mixture of thick oil, water, and sand. Canada’s oil sands deposits are second in size only to those found in Saudi Arabia. They are naturally occurring in places like Athabasca, Peace River, and Cold Lake areas of Alberta, and Saskatchewan, Canada, with the greatest amount discovered in the Athabasca region. Kearl is one of Canada’s largest and highest quality oil sands and poses minimal exploration risk because the resource is close to the earth’s surface and the quality of the deposit has already been studied.
If the oil sands are close to the surface as they are in the Kearl project, they’re most often removed using surface mining, a process that begins simply with large trucks and shovels. Only about 20 percent of all oil sands are close enough to the surface to be mined this way; the ones that are deeper underground are recovered using “in-situ” techniques that obtain the oil while leaving the sand in place.
The Alberta government granted its approval for the Kearl Oil Sands Project in May 2007, and the federal government followed with an Order-in-Council in August of that same year. After these approvals were received, Canadian environmental groups challenged the rationale for the approvals, and a joint review panel convened to consider further consider the project. Federal authorization was granted in June 2008, allowing work to continue.