Two oilsands companies, Syncrude and Suncor, will not be facing charges for the deaths of hundreds of ducks in tailings ponds they own. The Crown said they had too-strong a defence, which is why no charges will be laid.

An early winter storm in 2010 forced birds to land on the toxic tailings ponds and nearly 550 of these ducks had to be destroyed.

This is the second time Syncrude has been in the news in relation to deaths of ducks and tailing ponds. The company recently paid a fine of $3 million in penalties, the largest environmental penalty in Alberta history, for the death of 1,606 ducks in 2008, the Globe and Mail reported.

These incidents have highlighted tailings ponds and their place in Alberta's energy industry. Here are a few facts you may not know about Alberta's tailings ponds.

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  • Tailings are a waste byproduct from the oilsands extraction processes used in mining operations.Tailings consist of a mix of water, sand, silt, clay, contaminants and unrecovered hydrocarbons and are toxic. Source: Pembina Institute

  • Syncrude's Tailings Dam near Fort McMurray, Alberta is one of the largest dam in the world.

  • Duck Deaths

    There have been at least 2,150 deaths of ducks related to tailings ponds in Alberta.

  • There are currently more than 170 square kilometres of tailings ponds in Alberta. Even when tailings ponds covered 50 square kilometers they were big enough to be seen from space. Source: and Pembina Institute

  • Tailings management remains one of the most difficult environmental challenges for the oil sands mining sector. Source:

  • Tailings are stored indefinitely in open lakes that cover an area approximately 50 per cent larger than the city of Vancouver. Source: Pembina Institute

  • Tailings lakes increase in volume at a rate that would fill the Toronto Skydome on a daily basis. Source: Pembina Institute

  • Tailings lakes seep. The exact amount of seepage is either not known or has not been made public. Source: Pembina Institute

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