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Media opportunity: Review finds at least 3,600 abandoned and active mines operating in some of the most valuable fish habitats in western North America
A new report by science and policy experts from the U.S. and Canada has found that abandoned and active mining operations are putting tremendous pressure on watersheds from Montana to British Columbia and Alaska, and often overlap with populations of salmon, trout and other species.
The study, led by scientists at the University of Montana and Dalhousie University, reviewed the ecological complexity of rivers and how mines can affect culturally and economically important fish species by contaminating waters with heavy metals, burying stream habitat and diverting water for processing ore.
Those cumulative impacts can be impossible to reverse and degrade landscapes for thousands of years, according to the report by 23 scientists including Alana Westwood of Dalhousie’s School for Environmental and Resource Studies.
The researchers determined that there are more than 3,600 idle and active mines in some of the most valuable fish habitats in western North America, posing risks to fish health. They suggest in the paper, published today (July 1) in the journal Science Advances, that existing regulations and policies are inconsistent and do not adequately assess risks, quantify cumulative effects, mitigate damage or monitor for negative impacts.
Dr. Westwood is available to discuss the findings and how Canadian laws could be improved to close loopholes and prevent mines from harming waterways.
The paper and infographics are available upon request.
Senior Research Reporter
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