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Tar Sands/Oil Sands Tailing Ponds Hold 200 Billion Gallons of Waste

A catastrophic tailings spill last month at British Columbia’s Mount Polley copper and gold mine has focused Canadians’ attention on the safety of mine waste containment, and NRDC says the tar sands/oil sands industry is one of the main sources of concern. Tar sands/oil sands mining operations “generate massive volumes naphthenic acids, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, phenolic compounds, ammonia, and mercury and other trace metals, and some of these compounds are carcinogenic,” Droitsch writes. “For every barrel of tar sands bitumen produced…1.5 barrels of liquid waste is added to the tailings ponds.” Companies already store more than 200 billion gallons of waste in an area larger than Washington, DC, and “because of weak and unenforced regulations, the volume of tailings could grow to 343 billion gallons by 2060,” according to the Alberta-based Pembina Institute.