Strategic Investigation of the Jackpine Mine Expansion Dispute in the Alberta Oil Sands

Strategic Investigation of the Jackpine Mine Expansion Dispute in the Alberta Oil Sands

Yi Xiao (Department of Systems Design Engineering, University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Canada), Keith W. Hipel (Department of Systems Design Engineering, University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Canada & Centre for International Governance Innovation, Waterloo, Canada) and Liping Fang (Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering, Ryerson University, Toronto, Canada & Department of Systems Design Engineering, University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Canada)
Copyright: © 2015 |Pages: 13
DOI: 10.4018/ijdsst.2015010104
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The Graph Model for Conflict Resolution (GMCR) methodology is employed to ascertain strategic insights into a serious conflict over environmental concerns connected to the expanded exploitation of oil sands at the Jackpine Mine Expansion project located in Alberta, Canada. In fact, the expansion of extracting bitumen from large tracts of oil sands in Alberta and its associated potential negative environmental impacts have received increasing attention at the global level. Accordingly, environmentally responsible extended mining of bitumen at the Jackpine site is urgently needed. Hence, the GMCR methodology and its associated decision support system GMCR II are utilized to systematically investigate the conflict of the Jackpine Mine Expansion project. The results imply that the Federal Government of Canada is more concerned about the economic benefits generated by the oil sands projects rather than environmental impacts. It is suggested that more effort should be devoted to the environment conservation by the government.
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2. Oil Sands Development In Canada

Canada has always been considered a country having vast natural resources, especially oil resources. It is believed that Canada holds the second largest potential reserves of oil resources in the world, following Saudi Arabia, and most of the oil resources are contained in the oil sands. The major parts of the Canadian oil sands deposits are located in Alberta, Canada. It is estimated that there is a potential of 173 billion barrels of bitumen that can be recovered from the Alberta oil sands, and they are primarily found in three main locations: Athabasca, Cold Lake and Peace River, as depicted in Figure 1 (AER, 2014).

Figure 1.

Alberta oil sands areas (based on AER (2014))


In recent years, the oil sands projects in the Alberta have expanded rapidly. Considerable economic benefits have been generated from the development of oil sands projects. It is expected that oil sands activities could create a Gross Domestic Product (GDP) benefit of as much as $885 billion, and a total government revenue of $123 billion between 2000 and 2020 (Timilsina et al., 2005). It is also estimated about $25.2 billion was invested in oil sands projects in 2012, and about $159.5 billion was invested in oil sands projects in Alberta from 2001 to 2012 (Alberta Energy, 2013).

Coupled with expansion are concerns with respect to detrimental impacts on the environment, both locally and internationally. For instance, the building of holding ponds holding toxic waste could contaminate rivers, lakes, and aquifers. Furthermore, the release of greenhouse gases caused by the mining and upgrading of bitumen from the oil sands could significantly increase. There is also the issue of the large quantities of water needed to extract, ship and upgrade bitumen. Finally, there is the criticism of long term economic benefits to Canadians are not being taken into account (Marceau & Bowman, 2014). The Jackpine Mine Expansion dispute is concerned with the release of increased greenhouse gases due to the expansion of the project by Shell.


3. Background Of The Jackpine Mine Expansion Dispute

The Jackpine Mine Expansion project is an oil sands mining project located about 70 km north of Fort McMurray on the east side of the Athabasca River, and it extends to the north of the current Jackpine Mine project. The location map of the project can be seen in Figure 2.

Figure 2.

Map of the project location (based on Shell Canada (2007))


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