Storified by The Stream · Wed, Oct 26 2011 21:59:36
Activists are flocking to the web to organize a multi-location protest against oil sands extraction operations currently underway in Alberta, Canada. The protest is scheduled to happen June 18 across Canada and in front of Canadian embassies around the world.
Participants are gathering to oppose continuing extraction happening in the bitumen mining operations in the Athabasca, Cold Lake, and Peace River regions of Alberta and Saskatchewan.
First Nations efforts to stop mining projects have been ongoing for years, and have included international street protests and visits to foreign governments.
This video shows a First Nations-led protest that took place in London in 2009.
Leaders of First Nations bands and communities (Canada's indigenous people) accuse the government of racing to develop the mines at dire cost to land, fisheries, and essential sources of drinking water in the region.
Local food sources are also tainted by the carcinogenic runoff.
Mining opponents also claim that indigenous communities have not been compensated for land use, and that such government infringement violates several long-standing treaties between First Nations and the Canadian Crown, which leases land to oil companies.
Runoff from these operations is so damaging because of the difficulty of the extraction process: the earth is stripped of topsoil or deforested, then the sand is either scraped away and boiled or heated with steam in situ to separate the thick, tar-like oil from sand and other impurities.
This video, filmed in 2009 in an unidentified part of Alberta's oil sands region, shows the size of a typical mine and the kind of surface damage often found in a mined area.
Currently, almost half of all oil produced in Canada comes from these kinds of bitumen deposits, which contain the world's second-largest petroleum reserve, behind Saudi Arabia.
Defenders of the mining operations claim that the embattled oil companies are on the losing side of a PR game, and that Canadian oil has a better human rights record than crude extracted from countries like Libya, Saudi Arabia, or Sudan.
There are some indications that years of increasingly vocal and visible dissent from affected communities has moved the needle: the Alberta government has made some concessions to oil sands opponents.
However, Canada recently joined Russia and Japan in rejecting a proposal to extend emissions controls under the current Kyoto Protocol past 2012. This eliminates any ceilings on carbon emissions, allowing tar sands extraction to move forward.
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