A new study published in the journal, Proceedigs of the National Academy of Sciences, confirms fears that Native Canadians have held for some time relating to the mining of oil sands in Alberta.
Native Canadians living near the Athabasca River, downstream from the oil sands mines have long suspected that their high incidence of cancer is related to the mines. Now research carried out by researchers at the Univseristy of Alberta have confirmed their fears.
The mines which consist of massive open pits recover a tar, sand and metal mixture. The tar, or bitumen is recovered and processed into synthetic oil. This constitutes the vast majority of Canada's oil industry that produces 178 billion barrelsoil, and has flourished over the last decade. It is estimated that Canadian oil sands hold about 13 per cent of the world's oil reserves and the US is becoming more and more dependent on them to fulfil their requirements.
The research found that in regions in or around, and downstream of the oil sands mines, levels of lead, mercury, zinc, cadmium and other toxic pollutants were present in levels that exceeded federal and local guidelines. These disturbing findings were backed up by data that showed the levels of these hazardous materials was in much lower concentration upstream of the mines.
The results also contradicted claims by local politicians that the pollutants and contaminants in the Athabasca River were a result of natural sources.