So far, most global tar sands extraction has occurred in Alberta. According to Steven Weissman, “Many around the world have viewed with horror... the destruction of much of Northern Alberta, and the consumption of startling quantities of water and natural gas.”
Matthew McDermott reports that “Environmental Defense has called Alberta’s tar sands ‘the most destructive project on earth,’ but perhaps the U.N.’s senior advisor on water, Maude Barlow, says it best. After a recent bus and helicopter tour of a tar sands operation in Fort McMurray she had one word to describe what she saw: Mordor.”
The March 2009 issue of National Geographic describes an operation that: “…digs bitumenlaced sand from the ground with electric shovels five stories high, then washes the bitumen off the sand with hot water and sometimes caustic soda. Next to the mine, flames flare from the stacks of an ‘upgrader’… Mildred Lake… is now dwarfed by its neighbor, the Mildred Lake Settling Basin, a four-square-mile lake of toxic mine tailings... To extract each barrel of oil… the industry must first cut down the forest, then remove an average of two tons of peat and dirt that lie above the oil sands layer, then two tons of the sand itself. It must heat several barrels of water to strip the bitumen from the sand and upgrade it, and afterwards it discharges contaminated water into tailings ponds like the one near Mildred Lake.”
In tar sands lingo, the environment itself, the stuff that is lying on top of the tar sands, is called “the overburden.” It is simply removed and destroyed. After tar sands “development,” there is no environment. Aerial views of tar sand mining operations are not recognizable as a part of this planet.
Tar sands mining would be, by far, the worst thing that has ever happened to the environment of Grand County, dwarfing any other environmental issue we face. Tar sands mining is environmental genocide.