Environmentalists have called the exploitation of the Oil Sands in Northern Alberta “one of the biggest global warming crimes in history.” And yet, the industry continues to thrive.
Oil Sands looks at the environmental damage, the booming local economy, and the ever-changing fortunes of the Albertan people. Speaking to people from across society, Alan asks them all one simple question: are the Oil Sands a blessing or a curse?
Northern Alberta is home to some of the world’s largest natural oil deposits. The determination of oil companies to access that resource has had a number of consequences: chief among them are colossal economic growth and major environmental damage.
Vast stretches of boreal forest have been destroyed. Huge quantities of carbon dioxide have been released. The industry is accused of polluting and over-using water from the Athabasca River. Local residents complain of health problems among both human and animal populations. All of this in a part of the world where aboriginal people live a life heavily dependent on the land.
Despite this, the majority of Canadians are in agreement that the Oil Sands make a significant contribution to the provincial and national economies, providing essential employment and revenues.
Alan Gignoux has been investigating the complex issues surrounding the Albertan oil industry since 2010. His photographs record the ruthless exploitation of a valuable natural resource, as well as the explosive economic growth in the region. The images are supplemented by in-depth interviews with individuals from a range of perspectives – speaking to lawyers, politicians, academics, oil workers, and local people along the way.
Oil Sands is available in a limited edition, hand-bound photobook in the Gignouxphotos online shop.
The work from Oil Sands has been shown in Brighton’s Fishing Quarter Gallery, doho Magazine, London’s Host Gallery, and VICE Magazine.
The project will also soon be launched as an interactive web documentary – the aim for which is to provide an educational resource for schools around the world.
Oil Sands: Wayne Groot explains his opposition to more upgraders
Wayne Groot is a potato farmer from Fort Saskatchewan in the Alberta industrial heartland. Interviewed in 2010, he describes his opposition to the construction of additional upgraders in his area, arguing for slower, more considered development.
Oil Sands: Louay Magherby on the opportunities in Fort McMurray
Louay Magherby, a former engineer from Damascus now owner of Gardenia Cafe/Restaurant, describes the business opportunities in Fort McMurray.
Oil Sands: Roland Woodward argues for the rights of First Nations
A member of the Woodland Cree First Nation, living next to Lake Gregoire Provincial Park, Roland Woodward talks about the economic and environmental issues confronting First Nations since the development of the tar sands.
Oil Sands: A pipe-fitter discusses the high cost of high pay
Preferring to remain anonymous, this pipe-fitter working in Fort McMurray explains why tales of the high pay of tar sands workers tell only half the story.
Oil Sands: The Dirty Maple Leaf - Three Creeks, Alberta
Residents of Three Creeks, Alberta, describe what it is like to live with harmful emissions from a neighbouring CHOPs (Cold Heavy Oil Production with Sand) facility, questioning whether existing regulations are designed to protect human health and the environment or to facilitate the rapid and profitable expansion of the tar sands.
Oil Sands: Frank Oberle on Oil Sands Regulations
Frank Oberle, the Peace River Member of the Legislative Assembly, describes the regulatory challenges that the Three Creeks area must overcome to solve the emissions problem around the local CHOPS (Cold Heavy Oil Production with Sand) facilities.
Oil Sands: Donna Ominiyak on the effects of a pipeline leak
Donna Ominiyak, a member of the Woodland Cree First Nation, describes the effects on animal and human health of a pipeline leak near Cadotte Lake, northern Alberta.
Oil Sands: Richard Langer on health effects of CHOPs emissions
Richard Langer is a retired farmer and oil worker living in Three Creeks. He describes the health effects from the local CHOPS (Cold Heavy Oil Production with Sand) emissions on the elderly and animals.
Oil Sands: Wayne Groot on the successful blocking of new upgraders
Interviewed in 2012, Wayne Groot expresses cuatious optimism about the successful campaign to stop the construction of new upgraders near his farm.
Oil Sands: Alain Labreque on health effects of CHOPS emissions
Alain Labreque, a Peace River farmer, describes the economic and health effects of emissions from the CHOPS (Cold Heavy Oil Production with Sand) facilities in Three Creeks, Alberta.
Oil Sands: Marie Ulchuck on a positive experience with an oil company
Marie Ulchuck lives on a farm outside of Cold Lake, Alberta, next to CHOPS operations owned by Devon Energy. She describes her positive experience of working with the company to address her complaints.
Oil Sands: Alain Labreque on oil sands regulations
Alain Labreque, a Peace River farmer, describes the lack of regulations and regulatory enforcement around the CHOPS (Cold Heavy Oil Production with Sand) facilities in Three Creeks, Alberta.
Oil Sands: Neil Young on mineral rights in Alberta
Crane Lake resident Neil Young describes residents' mineral rights under Canadian law.
Oil Sands: Neil Young on reclamation
Neil Young, an oil worker who lives on Crane Lake, Alberta, discusses the reclamation challenges facing both oil companies and residents.
Oil Sands: Carmen Langer on bullying tactics
Carmen Langer, a grain and cattle farmer in Three Creeks campaigning for better regulation of CHOPS operations, describes an early morning visit from the RCMP (Royal Canadian Mounted Police).
Oil Sands: Carmen Langer on the effects of CHOPS emissions
Carmen Langer, a cattle and grain farmer in Three Creeks, describes the health effects of CHOPS emissions on people and animals.