WIT Press

Using Sustainable Development Indicators (SDIs) For Sustainability Assessment Of Surface Mining Operations In The Oil Sands Projects: Applicability, Usefulness And Cost


Free (open access)





Page Range

3 - 13




645 kb

Paper DOI



WIT Press


C. A. Poveda & M. G. Lipsett


Sustainable development indicators (SDIs) can be found within currentlyexisting approaches, strategies, models, appraisals, and methodologies for environmental and sustainability assessment. Conceptually, the design and implementation of SDIs brings together different stakeholders towards finding the balance among economic, social, and environmental development; however, questions surround SDIs for the assessment of sustainability of projects (e.g. surface mining operations) or industries (e.g. oil and gas) for which the development of SDIs still is in its infancy: (1) Do the SDIs properly align theory with practice?; (2) Do the SDIs meet their intent?; and (3) Can the stakeholders and project proponents afford the implementation of SDIs? Individual efforts have been made to establish a set of SDIs by companies developing projects; and regulatory systems (in some way predecessors of SDIs) require certain levels of investment to meet a minimum level of performance, particularly on environmental grounds. But large industrial projects (such as oil sands projects, which include surface mining operations) do not have a comprehensive set of SDIs to benchmark sustainable performance and/or measure sustainable development. Questions remain regarding the rate at which extractive industry companies align with more sustainable practices, whether it is the applicability of SDIs, their degree of usefulness, or the costs of development and implementation of SDIs, or other factors. The present work analyzes the development and implementation of SDIs in surface mining operations for oil sands projects, highlights the benefits of using SDIs, proposes an alternative framework for SDI in the Canadian oil sands industry, and offers


sustainable development indicators, SDIs, sustainability assessment, rating systems, oil and gas, oil sands, sustainable development, energy consumption, surface mining operations