A COSIA Newsletter


Issue 06 - Feb 2016

Heather Kaminsky wants to solve the tailings challenge

Heather Kaminsky’s career has been shaped by oil sands innovation and collaboration. Her passion lies in developing solutions to reduce the amount of fluid fine tailings at oil sands mining operations. This dedication led her to organize the 2015 COSIA Oil Sands Clay Workshop and Conference, which she also helped to plan in 2011 and 2013.

“As an industry, we need to understand the problem in order to solve it, and I want to share my knowledge and understanding with more people and educate them so we can find great solutions together,” says Heather, adding her Ph.D research focused on the behaviour of clays — a key component of fluid fine tailings that prevents the material from settling to the bottom of tailings ponds. 

Heather’s Ph.D from the University of Alberta in Characterization of Oil Sands, Tailings and Process Streams was funded by the Oil Sands Tailings Research Facility, a collaborative effort that predated COSIA and was folded into COSIA when it was established. Now a research engineer at Suncor, her main focus is improving tailings operations in the oil sands. 

Heather leads two COSIA working groups, the Soft Deposit Capping Working Group and the Clay Focus Working Group. She also sits on the Deep Cohesive Deposit and Research Working Group and was formerly the chair of the Deposit Characterization Working Group. 

“A lot of my work is done and shared through COSIA,” she says. “COSIA gives companies opportunities to come together and reflect and draw on each other’s resources and knowledge, which directly affects the work we do at our own companies.”

Heather feels conferences like the COSIA Oil Sands Clay Workshop and Conference are important for innovation because they bring people together who have different perspectives on the topics at hand. It allows people to talk about these topics and find common ground. 

“One of the highlights of the conference for me was having a lot of really smart people in the room, and the level of questions that were being asked was great,” says Heather. “I am very excited about the opportunities for collaboration and innovation going forward.” 

As an employee of a member company, Heather understands the importance of COSIA in helping foster collaboration and innovation. She says she believes it gives member companies the opportunity to address the technical challenges related to tailings and to come up with and share innovative ideas and technologies to solve these challenges. 

“We have multiple companies who choose technologies for vastly different end goals, so, if we do not understand that our end goals are different, then it is no wonder our main goals of research are different,” says Heather. “We need to understand what those key differences are and accommodate them, and COSIA helps do that.” 

Heather says she believes COSIA’s structure encourages companies to collaborate together to think about oil sands challenges in a deep and meaningful way. 

But she admits there is still a lot of work to do. “My son is three and, by the time he is 18, I do not want tailings to be an issue anymore. I want us as an industry to be able to reclaim those landscapes more efficiently and effectively,” says Heather. 

Through COSIA, she says, member companies can work together to find solutions to the challenges facing the industry. 

Categories: Employees Suncor