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The Deep Well Oil and Gas Sawn Lake project and the Lubicon Lake Nation, Canada


The Deep Well Oil and Gas Sawn Lake project was the first oil development project in the centre of Lubicon territory proposed in 2004 without any consultation or negotiation with the Lubicon Lake Nation [1]. It uses Steam Assisted Gravity

Drainage ("SAGD") and referred to as the SAGD project. The Lubicon Lake Nation has one of the longest outstanding and unresolved land disputes [3]. No environmental assessment was conducted as it was not required for this particular SAGD trial project using a horizontal well [1]. The construction of the well began in 2005 and production started in 2014 [5]. 

The Lubicon nation wrote letters to the various oil companies involved - Deep Well Oil and Gas, Surge Oil and Energy yet there was no response [1]. In 2006, the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social, and Cultural

Rights (UNCESCR) also examined the Lubicon’s situation and it too ruled

that Canada had the duty to consult with the Lubicon Nation prior to

approving resource development projects [1]. Only once the company’s stocks decreased drastically due to mobilization via protests, and media awareness, did they respond. The Lubicon people protested this well demanding for negotiation, and while there finally was an agreement signed after two years of protest and conflict, the Albertan government had sold leases and approved wells for over 65 thousand hectares of land and 50 pipeline approvals [1]. The well resulted in clear cutting for the well site as well as deforestation for roads and construction of a pipeline. It was constructed right in the heart of the unceded Lubicon territory disrupting the ecosystems and destroying traplines [1]. There is already a large amount of oil and gas development in the area resulting in many environmental concerns and health issues in the Lubicon community; the addition of this well only increases the physical and mental health issues affecting this community.

In October 2018 the Lubicon settled their land claims case with the government of Canada for $131 Million CAD. According to the agreement, "the province of Alberta will pay $15 million for purposes to be

determined by Lubicon” as well as $3 million for capital enhancements to

the Little Buffalo school to allow it to provide post-secondary

education. Ottawa agreed to $95 million in compensation and $8 million in federal funding to cover negotiating costs. A large swath of land will also be handed back for the creation of a reserve." [1]

Basic Data

Name of conflict:The Deep Well Oil and Gas Sawn Lake project and the Lubicon Lake Nation, Canada
State or province:Alberta
Location of conflict:Peace River
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)

Source of Conflict

Type of conflict. 1st level:Fossil Fuels and Climate Justice/Energy
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Water access rights and entitlements
Oil and gas exploration and extraction
Land acquisition conflicts
Specific commodities:Crude oil

Project Details and Actors

Project details

The thermal recovery process for this project is Steam Assisted Gravity Drainage ("SAGD"). The process involves injecting steam into the oil sands deposit through a horizontal well (the injection well) which is located approximately 5 to 7 meters above the horizontal producer well.

Production commenced in September 2014. Production in January and February of 2016, averaged 615 barrels of oil per day (”BOPD”) with an instantaneous steam-oil ratio (”ISOR”) of 2.1.

Project area:16,300
Level of Investment:40,000,000
Type of populationRural
Affected Population:390+
Start of the conflict:31/08/2004
Company names or state enterprises:Paradigm Oil and Gas (PDGO) from United States of America - Parter company
Deep Well Oil and Gas from Canada - Primary company which proposed and began construction of the SAGD project
Pan Orient Energy from Canada - Partner company with Deep Well Oil & Gas
Surge Global Energy Inc. (SRGG) from United States of America - Partner Company
Relevant government actors:Government of Alberta, Federal Administration of Environment
International and Finance InstitutionsUnited Nation Human Rights Committee (UNHRC) - Concludes that Canada is in violation of the Lubicon people’s rights and must consult before approving projects
Stock Market Investors
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Amnesty International (

Conflict & Mobilization

IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stagePREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups mobilizing:Indigenous groups or traditional communities
Local ejos
Ethnically/racially discriminated groups
The Lubicon Nation
Forms of mobilization:Blockades
Development of a network/collective action
Media based activism/alternative media
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches
Arguments for the rights of mother nature


Environmental ImpactsVisible: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Fires, Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Oil spills, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover
Potential: Global warming, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Air pollution, Soil contamination, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality
Health ImpactsVisible: Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…), Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide, Health problems related to alcoholism, prostitution, Other environmental related diseases
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Loss of landscape/sense of place, Social problems (alcoholism, prostitution, etc..), Violations of human rights


Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Criminalization of activists
Land demarcation
Negotiated alternative solution
Strengthening of participation
Development of alternatives:Proposals being brought forward are consulting and negotiating with the Indigenous communities prior to construction of the projects and honouring these agreements.
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:While there eventually was an agreement signed between Surge Global Energy and its partners, the Lubicon peoples' protests were ignored and the projects continue without consultation or compensation for the land lost to oil development. The Alberta government continues to sell leases and approve oil development activities without negotiation with the Lubicon people. Their traplines and traditional territory is destroyed by the oil extraction activities; there are fires, oil spills, and deforestation. The project has been approved for expansion so there may be an increase in negative impacts from the oil development

Sources & Materials

References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

[1] Cheif Ominayak, Bernard, and Kevin Thomas. “These Are Lubicon Lands: A First Nation Forced to Step into the Regulatory Gap.” Speaking for Ourselves: Environmental Justice in Canada, edited by Julian Agyeman et al., UBC Press, 2009, pp. 111–122

This chapter is about the Lubicon Lake Nation fighting for their rights concerning the SAGD Sawn Lake project.

Links to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites

The Lubcion Lake Nation website which address current and past conflicts concerning resource development on their territory and how it affects their traditional way of life.

Date of Access: April 5, 2018

Information concerning project details such as investment and area

Date of Access: April 5, 2018

AER report for Andora Energy (Pan Orient Energy Inc.)

Date of Access: April 5, 2018

The Deep Well Oil & Gas Inc. website with details concerning the SAGD project as well as other oil development activities in Alberta

Date of Access: April 5, 2018

6 - Deal reached with Lubicon Lake over long-standing land claim. Edmonton Journal. Oct. 24, 2018

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

Video addressing some affects that the Alberta oil and gas industry has on the Lubicon community by showing short interviews with local people

Date of Access: April 5, 2018

Other documents

Map of Oil Development on Lubicon Territory This map from the Amnesty organization illustrates the amount of oil development projects on Lubicon territory.

SAGD project site

SAGD pipelines Photo from the AER report

Meta information

Contributor:Grace Byrne, Bishop's University; [email protected]
Last update05/11/2018



Powerline Oil Spill

The photo illustrates the environmental destruction the pipeline caused

SAGD pipelines