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CALGARY, Alberta (Reuters) - The province of Alberta and the Canadian laid charges against the Syncrude Canada Ltd joint venture after 500 ducks died after landing on a tailings pond at its oil sands operation in April.
The province alleges Syncrude, the world's biggest oil sands producer, failed to have appropriate deterrents in place to keep the ducks from landing on the toxic waste-water pond.
The ducks died after being fouled in a tailings pond when a spring snowstorm delayed deployment of sound cannons used to keep waterfowl from landing.
The incident brought worldwide attention to the ecological impacts of exploiting the oil sands, the largest oil reserves outside the Middle East.
"We feel horrible that it happened," said Alain Moore, a spokesman for Syncrude. "We have resolved to make the appropriate changes to prevent it from happening again."
Moore said Syncrude is taking the charges seriously and would be in court next month to answer to them.
The Alberta charges, laid under the Alberta Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act, carry a maximum penalty of C$500,000 ($410,000).
Environment Canada also laid one charge against the oil sands producer under the Migratory Birds Convention Act, which carries a maximum fine of C$300,000.
The federal charge is for allegedly depositing or permitting the deposit of a substance harmful to migratory birds in waters or an area frequented by birds.
Syncrude Canada Ltd, located north of Fort McMurray, Alberta, is the world's largest producer of synthetic crude oil.
Its partners include Canadian Oil Sands Trust, Imperial Oil Ltd, Petro-Canada, ConocoPhillips, Nexen Inc, Nippon Oil Corp unit Mocal Energy Ltd and Murphy Oil Corp.
Reporting by Scott Haggett; editing by Frank McGurty