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Oilsands worker in northern Alberta killed in encounter with bear

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The Athabasca river runs through a Suncor oilsands facility near Fort McMurray, July 10, 2012.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

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The Athabasca river runs through a Suncor oilsands facility near Fort McMurray, July 10, 2012.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

FORT MCMURRAY, Alta. - A female worker has been killed by a black bear on the job at one of Canada's major oilsands companies in northeastern Alberta.

"This is an absolutely tragic event," Sneh Seetal, spokeswoman for Suncor, said Wednesday.

"We are extending our heartfelt condolences to the family. We are in the process of reaching out to them, and until that time when we've reached out to them, we won't be releasing any details about the individual without the family's consent to do so."

It happened Wednesday afternoon at Suncor's main base site 25 kilometres north of Fort McMurray.

"It would be a remote area, however, a busy camp," said RCMP Cpl. George Cameron.

Seetal said the worker was pronounced dead at the scene.

Barrie Harrison with Alberta Occupational Health and Safety said the woman was attacked by a mature male black bear which has since been put down by RCMP.

Harrison said it's unknown if the worker was by herself when the attack happened.

Seetal said it's not known if there had been recent bear sightings in the area.

"Part of the wildlife training that we do offer for our employees and that employees partake in does speak to alerting any sightings through to people on site so appropriate steps can be taken," Seetal said.

She said as a result of the attack, "we are reminding people not just at our site but in the broader community to be especially vigilant in dealing with wildlife."

Harrison said companies that have operations in areas where there may be the presence of bears have certain procedures in place to try to prevent such attacks from happening.

"Regardless of the type of hazards that employees in Alberta deal with, companies need to come up with procedures to assess what those hazards might be and what sort of procedures are in place to deal with those hazards," Harrison said.

"Part of the job we'll be doing and working with Suncor determining what sort of procedures are in place and whether there was anything possibly that could have been done to avoid this from happening."

Harrison said in the years he's been with Occupational Health and Safety, "I'm not aware of an attack on a worker by a bear of any variety, whether it's black, brown or grizzly."

— by Mary Jo Laforest in Edmonton

Note to readers: This is a corrected story. A previous version had Barry.

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