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James Edward Clarke Carter


In an industry as dependent on innovation as the oilsands, there is inevitably going to be a wealth of visionaries. In northern Alberta, there are a number of people who have worked to establish stronger relationships with the aboriginal community. And in Canada, you can't throw a fluorescent light bulb without hitting someone working to improve sustainability. But how many people are there who fit all three descriptions?

Jim Carter has been all of these things and more. After joining Syncrude Canada Ltd. as manager of overburden operations in 1979, Jim revolutionized the industry before being named president and chief operating officer in 1997.

With a background in the mining industry and a B.Eng. in mining engineering from the Technical University of Nova Scotia, he entered the industry when the biggest truck was 85 tonnes. He said "we've got to go bigger and get economies of scale," recalls Eric Newell, former chairman and chief executive officer at Syncrude. "There were a lot of naysayers," but he worked with Caterpillar Inc. to form the North American Truck Steering Committee, which resulted in the 400-tonne trucks in use today.

His reign also saw the introduction of "hydrotransport technology that allowed development of remote mines, and design changes to improve fluid coker nozzle performance," explains Gordon Ball, a former vice-president of Syncrude under Jim.

Jim's commitment to mining and technological progress has extended beyond the confines of Syncrude's own operations. He led the rescue of the University of Alberta's mining engineering program in 1991 and is a consistent advocate of sustainable, responsible development. As chairman of the Mining Association of Canada, he developed the Towards Sustainable Mining initiative, aimed at improving environmental and social performance, with a focus on tailings and energy management and stakeholder outreach.

As a director of the Alberta Chamber of Resources, Jim created the Oil Sands Technology Roadmap, which envisions a third wave of oilsands development. He helped establish several industrial research chairs of the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council. He chaired the Alberta Carbon Capture and Storage Development Council, which resulted in a $2-billion government investment in a commercial-sized project and sits on the boards of CAREERS: The Next Generation and the Climate Change and Emissions Management Corporation.

Jim's vision also manifests itself in the relationships he has built with the aboriginal community. "He was a genuine friend and was truly passionate about creating a very solid relationship with the aboriginal community and the oilsands industry," aboriginal businessman Doug Golosky of the Golosky Group of Companies wrote in a letter supporting Carter's nomination. Under Jim's leadership, Syncrude established its Aboriginal Development Program, which has made the consortium one of Canada's largest employers of aboriginal people, and has yielded more than $1.5 billion worth of business with aboriginal organizations.

Jim was also responsible for the Aboriginal Programs Project, and is credited by Golosky with helping to establish the Northeastern Alberta Aboriginal Business Association.

Jim's work has repeatedly combined the goals of improving stakeholder relations and improving sustainability. Working with the Fort McKay First Nation, Jim established the Beaver Creek Wood Bison Ranch, which over the past 20 years has grown from a test project on the ability of reclaimed land to stand up to large mammals to now boast a herd of more than 300 wood bison. "Jim had great values coming into the game, and Syncrude reinforced that," Newell says. "The industry owes a lot to Jim Carter, and the oilsands wouldn't be where it is today without him."


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