Canada's oil sands industry is working to reduce the size of its footprint in order to maintain the biodiversity of the region and to support the function of natural ecosystems.

Oil and natural gas operations occur in very diverse landscapes and these landscapes are home to many ecosystems containing a variety of plants and animals.

Alberta's oil sands lie under 142,000 kmof land. Only about 3 per cent, or 4,800 km2, of that land could ever be impacted by the mining method of extracting oil sands. 

The remaining reserves that underlie 97 per cent of the oil sands surface area are recoverable by drilling (in situ) methods which require very little surface land disturbance.

Size of oil sands

Areas of Focus

Reclamation is the act of returning the land to a sustainable landscape. Alberta law requires all lands disturbed by oil sands operations be reclaimed, which is managed by the companies developing reclamation plans that span the life of the project. From the start of any development, producers strive to reduce their impact by avoiding sensitive habitats, minimizing the area needed for well sites and working with other users to share roads and pipelines.

Given the long life cycle of oil sands operations (a typical oil sands mine has a 25 to 50 year lifespan an in situ operation runs for 10-15 years), much of the industry's reclamation activity is still in early stages. Companies are evolving their operations and techniques used to reduce their footprints, and continue to pursue ways to manage our impact on land.

Wood Bison

CAPP and the industry are active participants in regional land use planning, such as the Lower Athabasca Regional Plan (LARP). Through land use plans, governments are expected to introduce a suite of planning tools that will guide industry in developing projects based in different regions.

Learn more about reclamation in Canada's oil sands.


Canada’s Oil Sands Innovation Alliance (COSIA) is an alliance of oil sands producers focused on accelerating the pace of improvement in environmental performance in Canada's oil sands through collaborative action and innovation. COSIA's work has focused on reducing the footprint intensity and impact of oil sands mining and in situ (in place) operations on the land and wildlife of northern Alberta, and has included work on:

  • footprint reduction — more efficient use of land by reducing the extent and duration of industrial footprints;
  • accelerate reclamation — reclaiming and restoring disturbed land in a timely manner;
  • preserve biodiversity — maintaining natural diversity including bird, mammal and fish
  • species with a focus on species of management concern.

Examples of current projects include: