Study says better deterrents are needed
BY SHEILA PRATT, POSTMEDIA NEWS MAY 10, 2014
Oilsands companies need better techniques to keep birds off tailings ponds, according to a report that shows ducks and other water birds are landing by the tens of thousands on ponds containing waste from open-pit mines.
A tailings pond is picture at the Syncrude
oilsands facility seen from a helicopter near
Fort McMurray, Alta., July 10, 2012.
Despite radar and powerful noise devices, an estimated 200,000 birds land annually, though only a small fraction of them die, says University of Alberta biologist Colleen Cassady St. Clair, lead researcher on the three-year study.
The study was funded partly by fines paid by Syncrude for a 2008 incident in which 1,600 birds died in tailings pond during a spring storm.
Fatalities mostly occur when birds land in oily bitumen floating on the surface or in fresh tailings poured in from the mines.
But there are encouraging signs that birds are avoiding bitumenpolluted areas of the ponds, said St. Clair.
"The downside is birds are landing on the tailings ponds and we have an obligation to find out what the effect is on those birds, as they belong to all North America," said St. Clair, noting major migratory bird routes pass over the oilsands.