Retrieving that oil from the earth is a major undertaking, one that requires massive amounts of machinery, facilities, and man power. But the results also produce a massive amount of profit for those involved.
While its presence has been known since the early 1700's, it was only in the last decade or so that production and development has picked up on a large scale, thrusting the Tar Sands into the national spotlight. Folks from all over Canada and North America are flocking to Fort McMurray, the epicenter of expansion, for the promise of high paying jobs.
With an estimated 133 billion barrels still available, things don't look like they'll slow down any time soon.