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Water predictions help restore oil sands

Shahabul Alam predicts that more rain and snow by the end of the century will affect reclamation sites. (Photo Credit: Dave Stobbe for USask)
Story by Federica Giannelli

University of Saskatchewan research may be key to restoring the oil sands landscape after mining.

Engineering researchers Lee Barbour and Shahabul Alam are the first to create computer models of water balance which include climate change projections that will help the industry design more efficient reclamation soil covers at oil sands sites after mining is complete.

“Our study can help the Canadian oil industry save time and millions of dollars for the design of reclamation covers that support the full restoration of the environment at the sites disturbed by mining,” said Barbour, who is also a researcher at the USask Global Institute for Water Security.

The overall aim is to ensure water balance so that the sites have enough freshwater to support forests and wetlands, while limiting the release of potentially deleterious chemicals from the mine waste. Read more