Oil Sands Mine Water Steering Committee

The committee will assess options for safe management of oil sands mine water and reclamation of tailings ponds.

Status: Ongoing
Who is listening: Ministry of Environment and Protected Areas


Alberta has established an Oil Sands Mine Water Steering Committee to assess options for safely managing the water in oil sands tailings ponds. The Committee's advice and recommendations to the Government of Alberta will help inform an accelerated plan for addressing tailings ponds while protecting the health of downstream communities and the environment. 

In Alberta and around the world, mining operations produce tailings and tailings ponds. Alberta’s oil sands tailings ponds now contain over 1.3 billion cubic metres of liquid. Oil sands operators manage these sites and are responsible for reclamation, but research and evidence is still emerging. 

While the committee looks for long-term solutions, government will continue working with our partners to limit tailings growth and conduct extensive environmental monitoring in the oil sands region.

Committee mandate

The Oil Sands Mine Water Steering Committee will determine which potential oil sands mine water management and tailings pond reclamation options are feasible based on:

  • available technology
  • alignment with existing policies
  • economics
  • environmental and community impacts
  • infrastructure needs
  • liability implications
  • relevant research

More information will be shared in the coming months on how the public can submit technical information. All viable solutions to this challenging issue will be considered.

The Oil Sands Mine Water Steering Committee is expected to offer its advice throughout 2024 and, if needed, early 2025. Final recommendations will be made publicly available once reviewed.

Get informed

Committee members

The Oil Sands Mine Water Steering Committee includes representatives from Indigenous and local communities, the oil sands mining industry, and tailings and academic experts. Members include:

  • Jim Boucher

    President, Saa Dene Group of Companies, former chief of Fort McKay First Nation and member of the Alberta Order of Excellence 

    Chief Jim Boucher of Fort McKay is known for his visionary, consensus-based leadership as the Chief of Fort McKay First Nation. Under his direction, the First Nation became one of the most enterprising Indigenous communities in the world. 

    Jim had a history of serving his community long before he became Chief. After working as an apprentice millwright, he was appointed by the community as For McKay First Nation’s first band manager. He served one term as a band councillor before being elected by the Elders to run for Chief in 1986. 

    As Chief, he began helping the community navigate the decline of the fur trade and the growth of the oil sands industry, facilitating proper consultation and advancing the rights of his community. He has served as Grand Chief of Treaty 8 First Nations of Alberta and Chair of the National Aboriginal Economic Development Board.

    In 2020, he was inducted into the Alberta Order of Excellence. No matter how many successful joint ventures Jim has established over the years, his first motivation is always the well-being and cultural values of his community and preserving their traditions and relationship with nature.

  • Dr. Mohamed Gamal El-Din

    Ph.D., P.Eng., FCSCE, FASCE, Professor, Engineering Research Chair and Director of the Water Research Centre at the University of Alberta and Canada Research Chair (Tier 1) in sustainable and resilient wastewater treatment for reuse.

    Dr. Mohamed Gamal El-Din is a professor in the department of civil and environmental engineering at the University of Alberta. His research focuses on innovative treatment approaches for municipal and industrial wastewater, including oil and gas. Since 2011, he has held an NSERC Senior Industrial Research Chair in oil sands tailings water treatment and is also a theme lead for the Future Energy Systems (FES) theme on resilient reclaimed land and water systems. 

    In 2017, Dr. Gamal El-Din was awarded the Alberta Science and Technology Leadership (ASTech) Foundation Award for Innovation in Oil Sands Research. He is a Jinshan distinguished professor at Jiangsu University and was awarded the research chair in environmental engineering at Tongji University in China in 2020. In 2023, he was appointed the Canada Research Chair (Tier 1) in sustainable and resilient wastewater treatment for reuse. He was also named the University of Alberta’s engineering research chair in community-based wastewater management with a focus on advancing a circular economy. Dr. Gamal El-Din also serves as the director of the Water Research Centre (WRC). 

    His commitment to education and research is unparalleled. Over the course of two decades, he has supervised a diverse group of 207 students and staff members. Under his mentorship, these individuals have grown into accomplished professionals who are making significant contributions to their respective fields. Dr. Gamal El-Din is a prolific researcher, with an extensive body of work that includes 332 peer-reviewed journal papers and 414 conference and workshop presentations, among other publications. His contributions to the field have been widely recognized.

  • Andrea Larson

    Researcher and retired Alberta Energy Regulator employee with experience in oil sands mining

    Andrea worked with the Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) for 30 years before retiring in 2017. During her time at the AER, she spent almost 20 years on the oil sands and coal mining section, including managing the section. 

    Andrea participated in the development of Alberta’s tailings management framework and was an advisor on its implementation and development of regulatory processes. She has coordinated numerous regulatory hearings, including joint panel reviews and has participated in a number of multi-stakeholder groups. 

    Andrea was also on Canadian Standards Association (CSA) committees for the development of pipeline construction standards and has coordinated the development of a regulatory framework for in-situ coal gasification. She is a regulatory member of Canada’s Oil Sands Innovation Alliance (COSIA).

  • Alan (Al) Reid

    Retired oil and gas executive with experience with the Pathways Alliance, Cenovus Energy and others

    Prior to his retirement from Cenovus Energy in March 2021, Al was the executive vice-president, stakeholder engagement, safety, legal & general counsel. Subsequent to his retirement Al was the Director of the Pathways Alliance until March 2022.

    In his Executive Vice President role with Cenovus, Al was accountable for ensuring Cenovus built strong relationships and communicated effectively with a variety of stakeholders, including residents of Indigenous communities. Al also guided the company’s commitment to safety and had oversight of Cenovus’s environment strategy and performance, regulatory applications and compliance. He was also accountable for Cenovus’s legal, board and corporate secretarial matters, as well as enterprise security. Al has more than 25 years of experience in various roles in the oil and gas industry. Prior to his executive role at Cenovus, he was head of the company’s Christina Lake and Narrows Lake assets, where he was accountable for the overall development and operation of the oil sands projects. Al also worked as a regulatory lawyer where he was active in matters before the Alberta Energy and Utilities Board, the National Energy Board and the Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board.

    Al has a Bachelor of Physical Education, a Bachelor of Science and a Bachelor of Law degree from the University of Calgary. He also holds an Executive MBA, with a focus on global energy from the University of Calgary’s Haskayne School of Business.

  • Lorne Taylor

    Ph.D., ICD.D., ECA, former chair of Alberta Water Research Institute, former chair of the Alberta Environmental Monitoring Evaluation and Reporting Agency, and former provincial minister of science, research and information technology, minister of innovation and science and minister of the environment.

    Lorne was raised and schooled in Medicine Hat. He obtained a Ph.D. from the University of Calgary and held tenured positions at both international and national universities. He returned to Medicine Hat to work in his family’s cattle and construction business. In 1993, he was elected to represent the Cypress Medicine Hat constituency which he served until 2004. During that time, he held three different cabinet positions the last being the minister of the environment. Lorne is married to Lois and they have four adult daughters and families.

  • Tany Yao

    MLA for Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo

    Tany Yao was appointed the Parliamentary Secretary for Small Business and Northern Development on July 13, 2023. He previously served as the Parliamentary Secretary for Rural Health. Prior to serving as an elected official, Mr. Yao served with the Alberta Central Air Ambulance in Lac La Biche and as a paramedic firefighter in Fort McMurray. He also worked as the Assistant Deputy Chief of Operations – EMS in the region of Wood Buffalo. Tany Yao was first elected as the Member of the Legislative Assembly for Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo on May 5, 2015. He was re-elected on April 16, 2019 and May 29, 2023.



We will use the committee’s recommendations to:

  • inform an accelerated path forward for oil sands mine water management and tailings pond reclamation
  • protect the health of downstream communities and the environment