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Don’t Mine McClelland

What is the McClelland Lake Wetland Complex?

Watch this two-minute video below to get a sense of the expansive, unique, and irreplaceable area.

McClelland Lake complex is a wetland ecosystem in northern Alberta, about 90 kilometres north of Fort McMurray. It includes several important environmental features including McClelland Lake, a patterned fen (only 1 percent of the province’s wetlands have these), other wetlands, and sinkhole lakes.

The area provides an important stopover point and breeding ground for migratory bird species from across North America, including endangered species like the whooping crane. In addition to its biophysical properties, the area has socio-cultural importance for Indigenous communities in the region.

From above, the area looks like a mosaic: long rows of peat ridges (which started forming roughly 8,500 years ago) are separated by shallow pools of water. 

This area acts like nature’s kidneys; it helps filter and clean water and recharges surface and underground water supplies.

It also holds a lot of carbon.

Proposed mining puts it at risk.

Suncor owns the majority of a mine in northern Alberta called Fort Hills, which sits on the edge of MLWC. The company plans to expand this mine into the wetland complex. Suncor says it can keep the unmined portion of the wetland unharmed while mining the other half of the complex.

But our new report, which reviews Suncor’s operational plan, found otherwise.

In December 2021, Suncor submitted a required Operational Plan to outline how they intend to protect the unmined portion of the wetland complex.

AWA contracted the services of two boreal peatland experts — Dr. Lorna Harris and Dr. Kelly Biagi — to review the Operational Plan and determine whether it would guarantee the protection of the unmined MLWC. Our report shows that it can’t: Suncor’s mitigation strategy poses a significant risk of irreversible damage to the unmined portion of the McClelland Lake Wetland Complex, and therefore, it should not have been approved by the AER.


McClelland Fen ©S. Bray

You can help. Make your voice heard.

Send a letter to Laurie Pushor, President and CEO of the Alberta Energy Regulator and The Honourable Pete Guthrie, Alberta Minister of Energy. Fens, like the McClelland Lake fen, are important in the fight against climate change.

Send an Email

Boreal Forest PHOTO © C. Wearmouth


March 31, 2023  — AWA submitted an advance copy of our report on McClelland/Suncor’s Operational Plan to the Alberta Energy Regulator (AER).

April 12, 2023 — AWA received a letter from the AER regarding the submission of our McClelland Report. The letter states that this request will be processed through the AER’s reconsideration process.

April 17, 2023 — AWA released a report to the public, published a press release for media, and officially launched our #DontMineMcClelland campaign.

April 17, 2023 – Bob Weber, with The Canadian Press, published a story about the issue.

April 17, 2023 — Robert Tuttle, with Bloomberg, published a story about the issue.

April 18, 2023 — AWA received a letter from the AER regarding our request for a reconsideration of Suncor’s Operational Plan approval, outlining next steps for the reconsideration process.

April 27, 2023 — Drew Anderson, with The Narwhal, published a story about the issue.

April 28, 2023 — AWA set up a letter writing form on our website for people to submit their concerns to the AER.

May 2, 2023 — AWA released a short video explainer on YouTube about McClelland and the risks associated with Suncor’s Operational Plan.

May 8, 2023 — AWA delivered our submission to the AER regarding our Request for Reconsideration of Suncor’s Operational Plan.

May 31, 2023 — AWA received Suncor Energy’s reply submission to the Alberta Energy Regulator.

To learn more about the McClelland wetland complex, visit our page on the area.

When citizens and their representatives in government fail to place a high value on wilderness as a resource in itself, then its disappearance – especially in reasonably accessible locations – is swift and certain.
- Bruce M. Litteljohn and Douglas H. Pimlott, “Why Wilderness?”, 1971
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