The Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) has started an investigation into the death of 32 waterfowl at a Suncor Energy Inc tailings pond on its Base Mine Site, 29 km (18 miles) north of Fort McMurray.
The Canadian company reported the incident to the AER on Friday. It was detected during an oilsands bird contact monitoring program survey, according to a statement from the regulator.
“The state of the wildlife indicates that this may not be a recent event, but this is under review,” the AER said on Saturday, adding that an inspector was sent to the site to gather and review information.
The company has further discovered two additional dead wildlife, one muskrat and one vole, at the site since it notified the AER.
Suncor said it had begun an investigation after finding the dead wildlife on Friday, on the edge of a tailings pond at the Base Plant site during one of its regular, required checks.
The company said it believes this is not due to a recent event. “At the time of discovery, all bird deterrent systems at Base Plant were active.”
Tailings – a toxic mix of water, clay, sand, residual bitumen and trace metals – are a byproduct of extracting bitumen from mined oil sands and are stored in huge engineered ponds.