Oil Sands Truth: Shut Down the Tar Sands

Tar sands camps brimming despite cuts

Oilsands camps brimming despite cuts

By Dave Cooper, Edmonton Journal
August 18, 2009

The number of staff in Fort Mc-Murray work camps and lodges has remained high despite the cutbacks of major projects last fall, according to a census released by the Oil Sands Developers Group.

The June survey showed 22,728 workers are sleeping in 78 camps, lodges and motels largely north of the city. Last year's survey tallied 27,757 staff, but that was largely accounted for by construction at Canadian Natural Resources'Horizon bitumen mine and upgrader project north of Fort McKay, which is now complete.

The figure of 8,259 workers on-site there last year has fallen to 960, but other camps have expanded.

"I think it is a misconception that growth of the oilsands has stopped. This year between $7 billion and $8 billion will be spent on several large and small projects, and environmental projects. Plus Imperial's Kearl Lake project is coming on," said developers group president Don Thompson.

" Shell Albian is working on Jackpine, there are several in situ projects and Syncrude is in the middle of their $1.6-billion emission control program, so there is a lot going on in the region."

The 2006 survey found 18,572 people in work camps, so this summer's numbers are strong by comparison, he said.

"We are now at a very comfortable pace and we're really pleased at the contributions this region is making to the Canadian economy. When a person has a job they have pride and dignity, and it's nice to see jobs being created in areas of the country that are not faring all that well with the recession," said Thompson.

"Manufacturing firms in Ontario and Quebec benefit, and certainly the stories of people from Atlantic Canada who have come here are almost legendary."

Thompson compares the oilsands projects to the building of the Canadian Pacific Railway in the 1880s.

"I think Canadians should understand how the ripples from Fort Mc-Murray move through the economy, touching almost everyone. I like to think of the oilsands as a national building project, with people from every province contributing to this effort."

Last month, a report by the Canadian Energy Research Institute estimated the petroleum industry will add $3.6 trillion to Canada's gross domestic product and create nearly one million jobs over the next 25 years, with the lion's share of $2.6 trillion to the Alberta economy, as well as 57 per cent of the new jobs.

The institute report also estimated that $218 billion will be invested in new oilsands capacity over the next quarter century as output of bitumen increases to 4.3 million barrels per day, up from the current 1.2 million.

© Copyright (c) The Calgary Herald

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