Innovation Anthology

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Program ID: Innovation Anthology #171
Program Date: 09/30/2008
Program Category: Energy, Engineering, Environment, Forests, Water

Instrumented Watersheds II: Soil Salvage

Before a mine is dug to extract oil sands, the soil must be salvaged and stored for use in reconstructing the landscape afterwards.

Clara Qualizza is an environmental scientist who works with the instrumented watershed program at Syncrude Canada.

She says her team’s research has helped improve soil reclamation technology, where enhancing soil moisture retention is key.

CLARA QUALIZZA: There is overburden, all of the material that sits on top of the oil sand which varies depending on which mine you are at. But the very top, the really critical layers, are in the top, mostly in the top meter, but up to the top three meters. And we selectively salvage that material. The organic soil layers at the top, and then the mineral soil layers below, and we reconstruct them So we learn from the soil scientists what was there before and we attempt to put that back by selective placement back in the landscape.

According to Clara Qualizza, Syncrude is currently monitoring three different watershed landscapes, one built from overburden, another from tailings sand and a third from coke. Moisture and water flow is different in each.

Thanks today to Syncrude Canada.

Learn more at



Clara Qualizza, Environmental Scientist

Clara Qualizza, Environmental Scientist


  • Syncrude
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