By Tim Reiterman, Los Angeles Times
The open pit mine plunges 250 feet deep and ranges over a couple of square miles, carved out of pine and spruce forest by gigantic machines that operate 24/7, even in the dark of winter at 40 below zero
This is the heart of Alberta's oil sands, a remote Florida-sized region where moose, bears and beavers inhabit watery woodlands atop the world's largest proven petroleum reserves outside Saudi Arabia.
Almost half of Canada's oil production comes from the oil sands — and the energy industry estimates that enough oil can be economically extracted to fill the country's needs for three centuries.
The benefits may be great, but the toll on other natural resources is also enormous.
With development expected to triple, or even quintuple, in the next few decades, producers and government officials puzzle over how to harness the oil sands' potential with less cost to the climate, land, water and the well-being of native peoples who fear that cancer cases in a downstream community may be a sign of lethal industrial pollution.