A worker is missing at Suncor Energy’s oil sands base plant in northern Alberta after a bulldozer fell through ice on a disused tailings pond, the company said on Thursday.
It is the second serious incident at a Suncor plant in three weeks. On Dec. 28 two workers were killed at the company’s Fort Hills mine after a bulldozer collided with a light vehicle truck.
A spokeswoman for Calgary-based Suncor, one of Canada’s largest energy companies, said the bulldozer fell through the ice at around 3 p.m. local time on Wednesday afternoon.
“Unfortunately, we can confirm that the dozer operator is unaccounted for,” Suncor spokeswoman Erin Rees said in an email. “Our thoughts are with the family, friends, and coworkers of this individual.”
The operator, whose name has not been released, was an employee of Christina River Construction Ltd, Suncor said.
Natasha McKenzie of Alberta Occupational Health and Safety confirmed the incident had been reported and an investigation is underway.
Drilling operations were taking place in the area as the pond was being decommissioned in preparation for mining activity. Rees was unable to say whether it was unusual for bulldozers to be driving across the frozen pond.
Tailing ponds are large manmade lakes filled with toxic byproducts of the oil sands extraction process such as wastewater, clay, heavy metals and residual oil.
There is no impact on mining operations at the base plant, Suncor said. The plant consists of oil sands mining and upgrading operations and can produce around 350,000 barrels a day of heavy crude.
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