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Oilsands miner reports 123 birds killed in tailings pond incident


Calgary – The Alberta Energy Regulator says it is responding to a report of bird deaths at the soon-to-be-producing Fort Hills oilsands mine north of Fort McMurray in northern Alberta.

It says the mine has reported 123 waterfowl and songbirds have died or had to be euthanized.

AER spokesman Ryan Bartlett says the bird were found on or near a tailings pond, a body used to separate oil, sand and chemicals from water used in oilsands ore transportation and processing.

He says the mine operated by Suncor Energy is continuing to monitor and collect the injured and dead birds and an AER inspector is on route to the site.

Suncor did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The incident recalls previous birds deaths at oilsands tailings ponds. Syncrude Canada was fined $3 million when more than 1,600 ducks were killed in a pond in 2008 but no charges were laid in 2010 when 550 birds had to be destroyed due to an early winter storm that forced them to land on ponds at Syncrude and Suncor.

In August, Syncrude Canada was charged with failing to properly store a hazardous substance in connection with the 2015 deaths of 31 great blue herons at its oilsands mine, an incident not related to its tailings ponds.

The $17-billion Fort Hills oilsands project is expected to begin production later this year and ramp up to capacity of 194,000 barrels per day of bitumen within 12 months. Its reserves are expected to allow it to operate for 50 years.

It is owned 50.8 per cent by Suncor, 29.2 per cent by French oil company Total and 20 per cent by Vancouver mining firm Teck Resources (TSX:TECK.B).

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