Greenpeace blocks 2nd Canada oil sands operation

CALGARY, Alberta (Reuters) - Environmental activists said on Wednesday they canoed into Suncor Energy Inc’s Alberta oil sands operation, blocking equipment in a second protest action in as many weeks aimed at disrupting crude production.

Greenpeace said 23 of its activists entered Canada’s second-largest oil sands operation, stopping conveyor belts that carry bitumen from the mine to an upgrading plant that processes the tar-like crude into light oil. They ended the blockade after about 10 hours, the group said later in a press release.

The move, part of a long-running campaign against production from what Greenpeace refers to as “tar sands,” is the second this month.

Two weeks ago, protesters chained themselves to equipment at Royal Dutch Shell’s oil sands mine as they sought to highlight what they view as excessive greenhouse gas emissions from the region’s oil production operations.

“We came here to send a message and we want to make sure that message is heard,” said Jessica Wilson, a Greenpeace spokeswoman, who was among the protesters at the Suncor site.

“This is all a push toward (climate talks in) Copenhagen to encourage world leaders to come to a strong climate deal that includes shutting down the tar sands.”


Wilson and nine other protesters, including Greenpeace Executive Director Bruce Cox, were arrested by Royal Canadian Mounted Police on Wednesday away from the Suncor site, she said in an e-mail message.

The activists who were in the mine were still on the conveyor late in the day, however.

Suncor officials said production at the 300,000 barrel a day operation, located north of the oil sands hub of Fort McMurray, Alberta, was continuing and the company expected the action to have only a minor impact on its operations.

“We have taken a number of steps to protect the safety of not only the activists but our workers at the site,” said Sneh Seetal, a spokeswoman for Suncor, Canada’s largest energy company. “That includes increasing security, notifying employees and contractors at the site and continuing to extend our offer to discuss oil sands development with Greenpeace and all credible stakeholders.”

Greenpeace’s Wilson said the group’s canoes and kayaks were followed down the Athabasca River by a company motorboat that became stuck on a sandbank, but security had not otherwise interfered with the protesters’ landing.

Two weeks ago, Greenpeace activists chained themselves to a mining shovel and dump truck at Shell’s nearby mine, a protest timed to coincide with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s visit with U.S. President Barack Obama in Washington.

Shell temporarily halted production at the mine.

Greenpeace ended that demonstration after about a day, and its activists faced no charges.

Editing by Rob Wilson