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Land use and biodiversity 

We operate in a variety of ecosystems - some with sensitive characteristics. Our Upstream operations in particular can affect different wildlife areas, including foothills, prairie ecosystems and northern peatland areas.

Imperial carefully considers land use, biodiversity and ecosystem services in all aspects of our upstream operations, from new development planning to ongoing operations and reclamation.  

For our major projects, we identify and evaluate environmental, social and health risks and opportunities through the Environmental, Social and Health Impact Assessment (ESHIA) process. Also, biodiversity and ecosystem services are taken into account during the Environmental Aspects Assessment and Environment Business Planning processes. Through these tools we look at factors such as minimizing footprint in sensitive environments, the rarity of individual species, their roles in different ecosystems and habitats, their vulnerabilities and their cultural significance.

We minimize our surface footprint for new facilities through careful planning, re-use of existing disturbances and progressive reclamation throughout the life of a project. 

Biodiversity – a term used to describe the variety of life on earth and includes the diversity of ecosystems and living organisms

Ecosystem services – the direct and indirect benefits people obtain from the environment such as food, water, shelter, clean air and cultural identity

Supporting biodiversity initiatives

In addition to the application of tools that improve our understanding of local biodiversity conditions and ecosystem services in areas where we operate, we support research and collaborative efforts to conserve and monitor biological resources.

  • Imperial is a founding member of Canada’s Oil Sands Innovation Alliance (COSIA), an industry group focused on improvements in environmental performance in Canada’s oil sands through collaborative action and innovation. One key focus area for COSIA is to reduce the footprint intensity and impact of oil sands operations on the land and wildlife. 
  • Imperial is a member of COSIA’s Regional Industry Caribou Collaboration (RICC), which is a group of companies that contribute to conservation of caribou and restoration of their habitat through collaborative range-based efforts. RICC is intended to coordinate research and effectiveness monitoring in the RICC area of interest. Research programs will include measurement and assessment of caribou habitat use and selection, causes of caribou mortality, predator-prey relationships, predator and alternate prey abundance and density, predator and prey use of industrial features and efficacy of linear deactivation.
  • Monitoring Avian Productivity and Survivorship (MAPS) – The MAPS program is a continent-wide bird banding program dedicated to understanding population demographics and vital rates of land bird species. It has been initiated to advance the understanding of bird population dynamics and diversity in reclaimed habitats. Since 2013, Imperial has been sponsoring the MAPS program which includes monitoring stations at our newly reclaimed area along Muskeg Lake and a natural station at Kearl Lake.
    • Visit the MAPS website
  • We support monitoring of rare species such as the yellow rail at our Kearl oil sands operations through the deployment of Automated Recording Units (ARUs). Recording the vocalizations of birds and amphibians helps determine the presence or absence of rare vocal species and better understand the habitats in which these species are found.  
    • Visit the ABMI website for more ARU information
  • Imperial originally obtained Wildlife at Work certification from the Wildlife Habitat Council (WHC) for our commitment to enhance wildlife habitat and promote wildlife awareness – first at Cold Lake in 2010 and at Kearl in 2012. Both sites continue to be recertified every two or three years, the most recent being 2015 and 2014, respectively. The WHC is an international non-profit organization that works with conservation groups and business to promote wildlife habitat enhancement and education programs in the workplace. This certification recognizes that our wildlife programs have gone above and beyond regulations, especially in promoting wildlife awareness among employees and the community.  
  • We built a compensation lake at Kearl known as Muskeg Lake, to replace the fish habitat that has been disrupted by mining activities. This lake, which is connected to adjacent Kearl Lake, is deep enough to allow fish to over-winter.