Wapisiw Lookout

CLIENT: Suncor Energy

LOCATION: Ft. McMurray, Alberta, Canada

Suncor Energy undertook closing of its first tailings pond, aptly named Pond 1, in 2007. It was the first large tailings facility to be reclaimed in the industry. Contained by the 92m high Tar Island Dyke, the pond and beach covered some 220 ha and contained several different tailings types, including large volumes of fluid fine tailings. Suncor made agreements with regulators and first nations to stabilize and reclaim the pond in a safe and stable manner that met all corporate and regulatory requirements within a three-year period.

BGC worked closely with Suncor staff and their contractors to create an initial landform design that could be implemented right away. The design provided for fluid fine tailings to be displaced to a dredge by depositing coarse tailings from the north to the south over the three years. BGC led the investigation, landform design, construction monitoring, and as-built activities. The plateau was sculpted with large drainage swales to safely transmit surface water to a small wetland and to Pond 1A, site of a future end pit lake. An engineered cover was designed and constructed to control net percolation and provide a suitable growth media for desired upland and wetland ecosites.

The design, investigation, sand placement, cover, and reclamation all went on concurrently enabling this landmark project to be completed well ahead of schedule. Its opening was marked with a First Nations ceremony attended by Suncor staff, management, and even the Premier of Alberta. It was christened “Wapisiw Lookout” a Cree name meaning “Swan.”