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Home > Alberta's Resource Inventory > Hydrocarbons > Oil Sands Resources > Resource Development > Mining Extraction Process

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Mining Extraction Process

Suncor BucketwheelIt takes nearly two tonnes of processed oil sands to make one 159-litre barrel of crude oil. The rate of oil recovery is high—close to 100 percent of the available oil can be taken from the sand. However any sand with less than approximately 6–7 percent bitumen by volume gets left unprocessed. Mining projects are conscious of the natural disruption caused by mining, and the processed sand is returned to the area from which it was taken, and the land reclaimed.

Before any mining can take place, any trees and brush covering the area need to be cleared. After obstructions above land have been taken care of, the overburden (topsoil, muskeg, clay, sand and gravel) must be removed to gain access to the actual oil sand deposit. The muskeg and topsoil are saved separately and replaced after the mining to help reconstruct the site.

Enormous bucket shovels collect the bitumen from their location and load it into large trucks that transport it to the processing plants. The sand in the oil sands is very abrasive and regularly eats through the steel equipment used to mine it.   




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