R v Syncrude Canada: A Clash of Bitumen and Birds


  • Shaun Fluker Assistant Professor, Faculty of Law, University of Calgary.




On 28 April 2008, approximately 1,600 migratory birds died when they landed on a tailings pond located on Syncrude Canada’s Aurora North tar sands mine along the Athabasca river north of Fort McMurray. The Aurora mine, along with others in this region, fall under the pathway for migratory birds flying to and from breeding grounds in the Peace Athabasca freshwater delta in Wood Buffalo National Park. Weather or fatigue will influence migratory birds to rest along their route and a tailings pond located under the flyway is an attractive resting spot, particularly in early spring as the warm bitumen froth in the pond keeps its surface free of ice and snow. Unsuspecting birds who land on the pond risk being trapped in the sticky mat of toxic bitumen that floats on the surface before it sinks. The migratory birds who landed on the Aurora tailings pond that day were sentenced to certain death.




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