Map showing the boreal forest which surrounds Shell’s oil sands project, the oil sands resource and mineable oil sands

Before starting operations in 2003 at our Muskeg River Mine we devised a plan to manage the site, through a process known as reclamation. This process sees us work to return the land to a condition where it can support wildlife and plants similar to those that were there before mining.

We developed the plan using expertise from scientists and traditional environmental knowledge of the area.

How reclamation works

We remove soil layers from the areas we mine and store them separately. Surface soil, subsoil and peat are salvaged from the areas to be mined and stored separately based on ecosite type and soil properties. This in turn helps to maintain soil quality. For example, in upland areas the surface soil stripped with rootlets, nutrients and microorganisms from the forest floor is stored separately from peat salvaged from peatlands and fens with its higher organic content. We also collect and register seeds from local plants, such as blueberry, so we can replant the same species later.

Our detailed research covers the specific soil and nutrient requirements of plants, as well as how to develop sustainable forest ecosystems, wetlands and peatlands.

Our integrated approach to biodiversity builds on the industry-first biodiversity standard we adopted in 2001, now incorporated in our biodiversity manual. This guides our efforts to maintain ecosystems and respect protected areas.

Full reclamation is a staged process that takes several decades to complete. Shell is committed to starting large-scale reclamation of our mining area within 20 years of first land disturbance.

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