Named after the bituminous sands, Bitumount is a place where the story of the Oil Sands really began. Between 1925 and 1958, experiments separating oil from sand were performed and led to the birth of the technology used today.
The Great Canadian Oil Sands started the first large-scale mining operations in 1967. However, due to the high cost of extracting oil from bitumen, the investments and production didn’t pick up until 2000. Along with the rise in the price of oil, massive investment has been made, rapidly expanding the operations.
Extracting oil from sand has a large impact on the environment. Forests have to be cleared in order to establish open-pit mining. The mines might have a depth of 80 meters.
One of the side effects of such operations is the creation of tailing ponds, which contain the toxic sludge that is produced when bitumen oil is separated from the sand. These ponds now cover 176 square kilometres and hold enough liquid to fill the equivalent of 390,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools.
A large amount of heavy equipment is required to extract oil. The largest trucks in the world remove up to 720,000 tons of sand every day. Interesting fact: one tire costs as much as $60,000.
Mining operations at the sites are conducted 24/7. The majority of the workforce lives in remote camps, known as lodges.
There is a separate housing for women and men. Men cannot visit women’s dorms but women can visit men’s dorms.
While workers are paid very well, there are some tight restrictions and limitations while working on some sites. Workers are transported to the lodges and depend on provided transportation.
Work is mostly organized in 14-day intervals – 14 days on and 14 days off. Despite the challenge of working in such settings, employees find their pay compensates for the harsh conditions.
Fort McMurray has become the hub of the oil sands activities. The growth of the city has been enormous. Unfortunately, given the large proportion of temporary workers, the city has to deal with many problems such as drug abuse and lack of housing.
The entire project was shot with the Fuji X-Pro2 paired with the XF 50-140mm or XF 14mm F2.8 and Fuji X100S.
2016 © Kasia & Olaf Sztaba Photography. All rights reserved.