EDMONTON — Hollywood director James Cameron called Alberta’s oil sands a gift to the country that could become a curse if development continues without more respect for the environment.
In an hour-long news conference Wednesday, the maker of blockbuster films, such as the ecologically themed Avatar, said he was horrified by his initial look at open-pit mines and tailings ponds north of Fort McMurray, Alta., but he also said he had hopes that the resource can be developed more responsibly in the future.
He suggested the Alberta government should consider a moratorium on new tailings ponds until science can prove they are not harming the environment and First Nation communities downstream.
“This thing is big. It’s huge in Alberta,” he said. “You guys are going to be in the world spotlight.”
Mr. Cameron held the news conference after he met with Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach at his office to discuss issues surrounding the oil sands operations in northern Alberta.
Mr. Cameron, who arrived at the legislature just before 10:30 a.m. in an SUV, made a few brief comments to reporters on the way into the building.
It had been reported Tuesday that Mr. Cameron had agreed to help First Nation communities in the Fort Chipewyan area with legal action against the provincial and federal governments over oil sands pollution, but the director Wednesday backed away from that position.
“No I never said that. What I said was that I was there to support whatever needed to be done,” he said. “If they choose to take legal action, that’s their right, and I didn’t encourage them one way or the other.”
Mr. Cameron, wearing a suit and bright blue tie, also said he met with leading water expert David Schindler early Wednesday.
“He made time for me and I was grateful for that,” Mr. Cameron said. “This is all just part of meeting the right people and he’s done a lot of important research in the area of the contamination of the watershed and the atmosphere and his science has been peer-reviewed and published and I think it stands up to scrutiny.
“I think he has come out against some of the practices of RAMP, and with good reason.”
RAMP, the Regional Aquatics Monitoring Program, is the joint government-industry initiative that has been set up to monitor water quality in the oil sands region. Schindler released a study earlier this month that took issue with the program’s results.
Mr. Cameron has been an outspoken critic of the oil sands, calling the industry a black eye on Canada’s environmental record earlier this year.
Cameron wants Alberta to take actionIn Canada on September 29, 2010 at 19:35