Syncrude faces charges over death of ducks

Mon Feb 9, 2009 4:50pm EST
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By Scott Haggett

CALGARY, Alberta (Reuters) - The province of Alberta and the Canadian government laid charges against the Syncrude Canada Ltd joint venture on Monday after 500 ducks died in April after landing on a tailings pond at Syncrude's oil sands operation in northern Alberta.

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 huge and toxic waste-water pond.

The ducks became fouled in the tailings pond after a spring snowstorm delayed deployment of the sound cannons that Syncrude uses to keep waterfowl from landing.

The incident brought worldwide attention to the ecological impact of exploiting the oil sands, the largest oil reserves outside the Middle East.

Syncrude mines tar-laden sand in open pits and separates out the heavy crude using hot water and chemicals. The toxic residue from the process is pumped into tailing ponds.

"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).   Continued...