Oil sands mining operations produce a toxic brew of water, sand, silt and petrochemical waste products. For over fifty years, the tar sands industry in Alberta has stored these tailings in enormous lakes that the industry refers to as “tailings ponds.” New research shows that these tailings have now surpassed 1.18 trillion litres and their volumes continue to grow each year.

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The Alberta government has allowed the environmental cost and economic liability of the oil sands industry’s tailings ponds to grow for nearly fifty years. Without clear regulations to ensure that the oil industry will pay for this increasing liability, Albertan taxpayers could be on the hook for the majority of the estimated $44.5 billion in anticipated tailings clean-up costs.

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The Alberta government should halt new tailings developments until industry successfully demonstrates that it is capable of properly reclaiming them. The government should also ensure that industry, rather than Alberta taxpayers, be required to pay for the clean-up of industry’s polluting projects.

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