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When it comes to ranking the top world's oil reserves that have been proved, the Canada sands are ranked second immediately after the Saudi Arabian ones. It is estimated that Canada has approximately 178.6 billion of barrels of unrefined oil which can be accessed to buy applying the current technological know how. Among the 178.6 billion barrels, 174 billion are derived from the Alberta oil sand fields which measure around 140,200 square kilometers. However, the largest existing oil sand reservoir is known as Athabasca. These oil sands are located in the northern part of Albertan and named after the river that passes through this deposit.
It is very essential to understand what oils sand refers to, oil sands according to Clark & Sheppard (2009) is a coating of sand and water that consists of a sticky bitumen film which is very heavy and thick oil. The bitumen that is present in this sand can be able to be derived from the sand by rinsing it and then refining the bitumen to form various fuels. In other instances, it has been noted that the bitumen together with the sand can be pumped through wells such as what happens in standard oil. However, when referring to Athabasca, the oil is very close to the surface, so what the oil firms do is to clear the area where the oil is suspected to be and then the sand is scooped from the base. What is left after the sand has been mined is muddy filled ponds and open pits which take the place of the initially beautiful environment
Athabasca Oil Sands and its impact on the environment and Native Groups in that Area
For successful mining to take place in the oil sand fields, it is important that the sand is washed from the bitumen. The river flowing within the Athabasca has played this essential role. For instance over the years that the river has flown it has assisted in eroding a lot of the sediment that once covered the oil deposits making then to come closer to the surface (Yeh et al 2010). This therefore means that without this river, the moist essential oil sands would be buried underneath a thick earth layer. As noted, for the mining of bitumen to be possible, the river has played a core role, in addition to this, for bitumen to be separated from sand, hot water is needed for the sand to be bathed in.
This water is drawn from the river, once the water has been used to bath the sand to retract the bitumen; it becomes contaminated and therefore can not be returned back to the river. The polluted water ends up being poured on to the surfaces resulting to the formation of tailing ponds on the grounds. The ponds formed by this polluted water pose a risk to the environment. It's these ponds that have taken the former beautiful place of natural wetlands that were present in this region. In addition, since the ponds contain dangerous chemical substances, the wildlife within the region is endangered (Nikiforuk, 2010). In 2008, hundreds of ducks that were migrating died after they land in the tailing ponds. Seemingly, the people within the region may also be at risk since it is presumed that the water from the tailing ponds may be penetrating into underground water.
As it has been criticized by a number of academicians and scholars, the constant withdrawal of water from the Athabasca River has a potential effect on the population of fish especially during the winter season when the flow of the river is termed to as normal (Clark & Sheppard, 2009). It has been noted that the quantity of water that the contracting firms have been authorized to withdraw from the river doe not take into consideration of the effects that this causes on the ecosystem and the general long term effects this will have on the Alberta watershed. This is a clear indication that despite the advantages that this practice has on the economic status of the area, there are more detrimental harms that are created which if no correct measures are taken will be very fatal to everyone either directly or indirectly (Ferguson & Culture, 2008).
For a very long time, it has been assumed that the presence of very big and influential projects within a region is accompanied with employment opportunities, a boost5 in the economy and peace in the labor force and satisfaction. However, this has not always been the case, taking an example of Athabasca, there is a clear indication that the constant contraction of new firms has not for sure led to new and job satisfaction guarantees. The size and the scope of the oil sands is a necessity to dangerous and risky working conditions. There are numerous examples of fatalities that have already been experienced in the region. The products that are retrieved from the region scarcely get the value that they are anticipated to fetch.
The oil sands also termed to as the tar sands in Athabasca is one of the biggest industrial activity in the history of man and which also has some of the destructive consequences. A lot of gases such as carbon dioxide are released to the environment during the extraction exercise and this ahs detrimental effects on the environment as high concentrations of carbon dioxide are known to be responsible for climate change in the northern part of America. Chastko (2007) asserts that the oil sands have been slated as the major causes and contributing factors to deforestation in planet earth immediately after the destruction of the Amazon Rainforest Basin. This is because the as the needs of need in relation to fuels increases, it means that more land has to be cleared in order to access the oil sand that is found under the surface, more forests will be cleared and more land surfaces will be cleared in order to access it. Clark & Sheppard (2009), state that currently the projects that have received approval are geared towards producing a total of three million barrels of oil every day till the year 2018. In addition to this production, for each barrel of tar, there are five barrels of water needed to cool and separate bitumen from the sand.
The region around Athabasca is said to be responsible or the production of a third to the green house gases being produced within the whole city. These emissions are expected to continue increasing in the days to come. Regarding to how things are unfolding currently, it is without any doubt that the government of Alberta has not done anything to stop this continuous production of green house gases because more and new contractors are being licensed everyday to starting their extracting activities within the region. This inability of the government to come up with clear mitigating actions through which we can control the GHGs is a sure indication of the liability to be experienced by the people within the vicinity and the region as a whole. The effects of green house gases shall be felt most when diseases and impairments associated to the gases starts dawning on us (Ferguson & Culture, 2008). Citing the example of the deformed fish that was caught by children from the Athabasca lake is a reality that should be taken seriously by the respective authorities and take the necessary precautions and actions. The activities within the mine fields have started to have detrimental effects on animals; the next victims will be the people.
The health of the community within the surrounding area where the extraction of oil is taking place has become a major concern lately. The healths of these communities have in the recent years taken a major turn or the worst as many health complications have been associated with the production of tar within the region. Seemingly, it is not only the health of the communities that has been endangered here; also, a number of social issues can be associated to the oil sand production through out the region of Alberta (Nikiforuk, 2010). Issues ranging from housing problems as people have been replaced in order to create room for the mining to continue to exploitation of the local communities due to expansion of contracts by foreign companies and employee programs. There has been the construction of various forms of infrastructures ranging from refineries, super oil tankers traffics in seas and across the continent to pipelines have affected the lives of the people negatively and that of other living organisms as they are replaced or changing the life cycles (Yeh et al. 2010).
It is far behold any dispute that the effects resulting from the activities within the area are more than what we see. From this research, we have seen the numerous negative effects the impact of oil sand has brought to the environment and the communities within that region. Surprisingly, when projects are introduced to a region, we expect the surrounding populations to grateful for the job opportunities that shall be created from them. However, this has not be the case to the people around Alberta, most of the firms ship in their own labor force thus making the community to languish in poverty and very dilapidating living conditions as they loose the little they had and their homes so as to create room fro expansion of the oil sand projects (Yeh et al 2010).
The effect of the GHGs is another factor of how the undertakings within the region have affected the area. Further more even aquatic organism have not been spared from this ordeal, the example of the deformed fish which had two mouths is a clear picture of how dangerous the chemicals from the oil sands are if consumed (Chastko, 2007). From this it is clear that there is a lot of harm that is done to the environment and the living organism around this region.