Progressive reclamation


Imperial’s goal is to return disturbed land to equivalent land capability, leaving behind self-sustaining ecosystems that  support wildlife and traditional Indigenous uses. Our commitment to progressive reclamation goes beyond regulatory compliance and reclamation planning begins long before production begins. We always start with the end in mind.

Reclamation innovation and collaboration

Imperial is focused on accelerating the closure of our oil sands evaluation (OSE) wells which are drilled to assess in situ reservoirs. These wells are typically drilled in the winter months to minimize disturbance. Since 2016, 622 OSE well sites (158 in a boreal caribou range) have been reclamation certified.

In 2021, Imperial received the first reclamation certificates ever issued for reclamation assessment activities completed using remote sensing technology1 at our Cold Lake operations.

We relied on LiDAR2, satellite imagery and advanced algorithms to identify plant species, estimate tree heights, and evaluate the landscape, allowing us to assess multiple remote sites at the same time without setting foot on the ground. By reducing or eliminating the need for helicopter fly-overs or mobilizing people to site we have been able to reduce cost, safety risk, and inspection time.

Due to the nature of our mine operations, fish habitat can at times be disturbed. In order to offset this impact, we constructed the 30-hectare Muskeg Lake in 2013 and development of our second compensation lake, Lake Tourangeau is underway. In 2021, Kearl’s Indigenous reclamation planning group identified a preference to reduce the size of compensation lakes in favour of other offsetting options. In response to this feedback, Imperial initiated a research project, as a potential offsetting opportunity, that would allow for a better understanding of aquatic environments and fish health within the Athabasca region.

Upstream reclamation performance

Over the past 40 years, Imperial’s operations in the oil sands region have impacted approximately 14,000 hectares, or 0.036 per cent of Alberta’s boreal forest. This includes our in situ operation at Cold Lake (3,691 hectares), our oil sands mining operation at Kearl (10,059 hectares) and early work at our Aspen development (509 hectares).

To the end of 2021, more than 800 hectares have been cumulatively reclaimed at Kearl and Cold Lake. In addition:

  • Since 1999, Imperial has planted more than 1.7 million trees and shrubs to support reclamation activities at our Cold Lake operations.
  • In total, approximately 18 per cent of Cold Lake’s footprint has been permanently reclaimed.
  • At our Kearl mine site, Imperial is actively salvaging and storing seeds, soils and other materials for later use in reclamation.
  • Imperial has collected and banked seeds from over 60 species of native plants to support progressive reclamation at Kearl.
  • Imperial is also a member of the Oil Sands Vegetation Cooperative (OSVC), which funds the harvest and banking of native plant seeds and research into seed storage.


1Reclamation certificates issued by the Alberta Energy Regulator on two OSE programs that included 32 sites.
2LiDAR = Laser imaging, detection and ranging.

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