Imagine a 1900-hectare coal mine transforming into a picturesque wetland filled with lush trees, native grasses, and plenty of wildlife. This transformation over many years is known as “reclamation,” and it’s not only possible, it’s required in Alberta.
In short, when a company applies for an energy development project—regardless of the project’s size or kind—it must have a plan in place to reclaim the site once the project is over.
Preparing for Reclamation
Before receiving our approval to begin a project, companies must provide a reclamation plan to return the land back to how it looked and how it was used (or similarly) before development took place. Companies should start decommissioning and reclaiming an energy site immediately after operations have ceased or after the disturbed land is no longer required for operations.
What We Expect
Under the Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act (EPEA) and the Conservation and Reclamation Regulations, companies have a duty to
- reduce land disturbance;
- clean up contamination (known as remediation);
- salvage, store, and replace soil; and
- revegetate the area.
The reclamation process can take many years or even decades, depending on the how the land functioned before it was disturbed—for example, whether it was forested land, native grassland, peatland, or farm land—and the amount of soil disturbance.
A company can apply for a reclamation certificate when it can demonstrate to us that the site is functioning similarly to how it did before it was disturbed, and no longer needs intervention. Only companies with a reclamation certificate—which shows that all reclamation requirements have been met—can close their projects and end their surface leases.
Please note that we do not have jurisdiction over federal land. The Indian Oil and Gas Commission issues reclamation certificates on First Nations Reserves.
Every type of energy development has its own reclamation program or requirements to follow:
Oil and Gas Sites Reclamation Requirements
Reclamation requirements for oil and gas sites apply to
- upstream oil and gas sites,
- sweet or sour gas plants, and
Mine Reclamation Requirements
Reclamation requirements for mines apply to
- coal mines and processing plants,
- oil sands mines and processing plants, and
- coal and oil sands exploration programs.
In Situ Reclamation Requirements
Reclamation requirements for in situ projects apply to
- enhanced recovery in situ oil sands operations,
- heavy-oil processing plants, and
- oil production sites.
- Fact sheet: Reclamation and Remediation
- Resource story: No Stone Unturned
For general questions about reclamation and our requirements, please contact our Customer Contact Centre.
Request for No Entry
Usually, a reclamation certificate is needed before a company can close its energy development site. However, when the land has not been used in any way, even temporarily, for construction, operation, or reclamation of an oil or gas development, site closure is achieved through the no-entry process.
To apply to close a site under the no-entry process, a company must complete the Request for No Entry Cancellation form. More information on this form can be found within the Upstream Oil and Gas Cancellation of Undisturbed Sites on Public Land information letter.