WIT Press

The Canadian Oil Sands: Environmental, Economic, Social, Health, And Other Impacts


Free (open access)

Paper DOI






Page Range

575 - 587




74 kb


C. A. Poveda, M. G. Lipsett


As world energy demands increase, so will the exploration and exploitation of alternative energy resources. The present level of energy generation cannot meet the needs of future generations if the pace of population growth and energy consumption continues at the current rate. While some unconventional energy sources are still in research and development phase, others have been effectively implemented. The impacts of different energy operations are still being debated, with respect to environmental, social, economic, and health effects. The definition of sustainable development adopted by United Nations (UN) uses the expression “… meets the needs of the present …” to indicate the required development by a current generation to maintain its standard of living while minimizing environmental, economic, social impacts. Large industrial developments will affect a range of stakeholders, and may entail cultural and political change. The level of impacts and their implications depends on many characteristics of the development, such as its size, production rate, duration of exploitation, processes used (including treatment of waste streams), and regulatory standards. While local communities, businesses and surrounding areas are first expected to be impacted, certain developments can attract global attention. Canadian oil sands developments are of interest to oil producers because of the size of the proven reserves; but the scale of development and the perceived enduring impacts are of concern to different stakeholders. This work presents a discussion and analysis of the economic, social, health, and other impacts of current operations in Canadian oil sands that are of concern to different stakeholders, including some uncertainties in levels and persistence of impacts. An overview is provided of efforts undertaken by government and developers to minimize impacts; and comments are offered on possible future strategies.


impacts, oil and gas, oil sands, sustainable development, energy consumption, unconventional oil