4.3   Environmental archives of trace metal deposition in the oil sands region

Colin Cooke, AEMERA



The extraction of bitumen from the Athabasca oil sands – one of the largest energy deposits in the world – began in earnest after 1960. Since that time, production in the oil sands region has grown from about 30,000 m3/d in 1984 to 300,000 m3 /d (1.9×106 barrels/d) in 2013. This increase in production has accelerated the release of environmental contaminants, including various trace elements known to be toxic at low concentrations. Of particular environmental concern are the atmospheric loadings and distributions of trace elements associated with oil sands surface-mining and processing activities. Here, I will review how various environmental archives (including: lake sediment cores; mosses; lichen; and snow packs) have been used to understand the atmospheric deposition of trace elements in both time and space.


Colin Cooke holds a PhD in earth science from the University of Alberta and worked as a research scientist at the University of Sydney, Yale University, and the University of Pittsburgh prior to joining AEMERA. He has published ~20 articles in scientific journals in the past five years, was awarded the Isaac Newton International Fellowship by the Royal Society in 2010 (to be held at Cambridge University), and has delivered research seminars at universities around the world.