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About our Cause


The world is sliding into climate crisis. Now attempts to avert it are being threatened by a single, massive project in the Canadian wilderness – the Tar Sands.

The campaign to shut down the Tar Sands has recently spread to the UK, due to the heavy involvement of UK companies and banks in the project. The UK Tar Sands Network is a new grouping of UK-based individuals and organisations who have begun to work together on this issue. We include: New Internationalist, People & Planet, Ethical Consumer and Platform, as well as many activists involved in the Climate Camp, and some other random individuals who just really care!

We are committed to standing in solidarity and working in partnership with First Nations in Canada whose health, livelihoods and future are being directly threatened by the Tar Sands. In 2009 we have organised two visits by First Nations representatives, jointly with the Indigenous Environmental Network: to the climate camp in August and a 10-day speaker tour around the UK in November.


‘We are seeing a terrifyingly high rate of cancer in Fort Chipewyan where I live. We are convinced that these cancers are linked to the Tar Sands development on our doorstep. It is shortening our lives. That’s why we no longer call it “dirty oil” but “bloody oil”.’

– George Poitras, a former chief of Mikisew Cree First Nation

The Tar Sands are a vast reserve of oil in Alberta, Canada – the second largest in the world. As other sources of oil dry up, major oil companies, banks and investors are pouring billions of dollars into Tar Sands extraction.

The tar sands development in Alberta, Canada, is being called ‘the biggest environmental crime in history’:

  • Millions of barrels of oil a day are now being extracted from what is currently the largest industrial development in the world.
  • It covers an area the size of England, and the toxic tailing ponds are so huge they are visible from space.
  • Extracting oil from these sludgy deposits in the heart of Canada’s ancient forests produces three to five times as much greenhouse gas as conventional oil.
  • indigenous communities, on whose land Tar Sands extraction has been imposed, are seeing high rates of rare forms of cancer and respiratory disease.
  • Tar Sands extraction is extremely resource intensive, using enough natural gas every day to heat 3.2 million Canadian homes
  • The Canadian Government is blocking progress in international talks to curb greenhouse gas emissions because it wants to dramatically expand Tar Sands production over the coming decades.


While all this is happening in Canada, decisions are being driven from London’s financial Square Mile. Shell is heavily involved. BP is about to go into its first Tar Sands extraction project, ‘Sunrise’ – in partnership with the parent company of Superdrug. Both Shell and BP are financially backed by most major UK pension funds.

Meanwhile, London’s investment banks have helped finance a wide range of Tar Sands projects, with RBS, HSBC and Barclays being amongst the world’s fifteen biggest Tar Sands investors. RBS is a particular target because it is now 84% owned by the UK taxpayer.


  1. Please join the UK Tar Sands campaign UK Tar Sands Network Facebook  group which we’ve just set up, and invite your friends. We’ll keep you posted with everything that’s going on in the UK.
  2. If you are coming to Copenhagen, please get involved in the Tar Sands actions that will be taking place over there. Email us to let us know you’re interested and we’ll let you know the details
  3. Think about ways you can put pressure on BP in the next few weeks. They’re going to make the decision as to whether to go into their first Tar Sands extraction project, ‘Sunrise’, pretty soon, they say. Anything you can do that could point out to them what a bad idea this would be WILL have an impact, from a letter to your pension fund, to full-on direct action.
  4. Show H2Oil at your local cinema/student union/community centre. Email us to find out how to get hold of a copy,
Supported by:

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8 Comments leave one →
  1. Jenny Smith permalink
    November 23, 2009 3:17 pm

    Hi, Yes, Who are you and where are you based. I am living in Scotland and recently completed a course on Environmental Justice and came across the plight of the Beaver Lake Cree Nation and work of Co-op bank.

    Along with a neighbour we Contacted IEN about the possibility of someone coming upto Scotland ( Not far from Aberdeen here)in the November tour but things were too busy.

    Left with a feeling of slight frustration that stuff goes on down south of the border, but have some ideas for here too.

    Would like to know who you are, what future plans you hold and where based maybe as I come south from time to time.

    Best wishes
    Jenny Smith

  2. November 23, 2009 4:08 pm

    Hi, Ive just disocvered you are based in Canada, not the UK. Interested to see, from your launch site, you plan on making a book interviewing indigenous people and a photo exhibition. Something like that could possibly go down well in the UK.

    Be interested to hear back from you sometime,

    Best wishes
    jenny Smith

    • tarsandsinfocus permalink*
      November 24, 2009 8:56 pm

      We are actually in the UK, however, we work with people from impacted communities in Fort Chipewyan, through the Indigenous Environmental Network. We are working with UK based groups who are also concerned about the health and environmental impacts of the Canadian Tar Sands.

      I will be in touch soon,

      UK Tar Sands Network

  3. November 24, 2009 12:08 am

    Thanks for all the wicked organizing effort that went into this event! Super awesome!


  4. Bonnie Gerard permalink
    February 12, 2010 4:42 pm

    Just so we are all informed, the Sunrise Oil Sands project will use the latest technology to extract bitumen. This means NO TAILINGS PONDS, NO RIVER WATER and NO OPEN PIT MINE. Total land disturbance will be less than 5 percent. Research Steam-assisted gravity drainage (SAGD).

    • Jess permalink
      February 12, 2010 6:56 pm

      Hi there Bonnie, I understand you work for Husky Energy,

      Thanks so much for noticing the growing resistance to your Sunrise Project here in the UK. Given that your partner in this particular ecological crime is BP, Britain’s largest oil company, we feel it’s our responsibility to point out that the project is unacceptable in several ways. Let me respond to your various points.

      Firstly, of course we’re aware that Sunrise is a SAGD project – I don’t know why on earth you would think that that makes it ok. SAGD is an even more energy intensive method of extracting tar sands bitumen than surface mining. You are surely aware of the extraordinary amount of natural gas that is needed to superheat the steam to melt the stuff out the ground. Enough gas to heat 3.2 million Canadian homes is used in the tar sands every day. In these days of looming climate crisis, that’s just nuts. But hey, we’re happy for you to prove us wrong. We’d love to know exactly what the carbon footprint of the Sunrise Project is going to be – can you tell us?

      Secondly, you seem very bullish about your water use and, by inference, the lack of pollution that will result. We’re unconvinced. Sunrise is situated above Canada’s biggest freshwater aquifer. How can you guarantee it won’t be contaminated when accidental steam blowouts keep occurring in SAGD projects? Certainly, the local Métis nation are worried about this. Rick Boucher, vice-president of the Métis Nation of Alberta, Region One, fears that “It’s just a matter of time before an accident causes injury or death, and pollution of this massive underground freshwater system.” And with the enormous amounts of water you’ll be using every day, how can you be sure none of it will get into the local river system?

      Thirdly, only 5% land disturbance. Well, any disturbance of the boreal forest isn’t great, seeing as it’s one of the most important carbon sinks on the planet and god knows we need those right now. But I think your phrasing might be a little misleading. Your project may only be building on 5% of the land, but its existence is hugely disruptive to the local ecosystem. Alberta’s caribou herds are facing extinction and the disruption to their habitat of SAGD operations are a major factor.

      So, all in all, we stand by our position that Sunrise should not go ahead, and we’ll be doing what we can here in the UK to pile the pressure onto your partners BP until they pull out of the project.

      Have a great weekend,

      Jess, UK Tar Sands Network

  5. July 13, 2010 5:43 pm

    “All that John Nenniger needs to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions in the oilsands by 85% is a cool $60 million and a 300-metre field of gooey bitumen. He doesn’t need carbon capture and storage service because his process hardly makes any.”

    – Andrew Nikiforuk

    Instead of debating over boring obsolete technologies and politics … support progress !! Someone get this project the money it needs to stop climate crime !!


  1. BP shut down in Plymouth over Tar Sands oil « Kernow Anarchist Network

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