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Montana Biostation researchers discuss mine risks on salmon rivers

Recently, a group of 23 science and policy experts from the United States and Canada released a review of mining risks in watersheds ranging from Montana to British Columbia and Alaska.

The newspaper in the newspaper Scientists’ progress It brought together experts in salmon ecology, watershed science, mining archeology, and mining policy to integrate knowledge across areas of research that often operate independently of each other. The team, led by UM researchers at the Flathead Lake Biological Station, found that past and current mining pressures are significant across the region and often overlap with large populations of salmon, trout and fish.

“Our paper highlights a mosaic of more than 3,600 active and abandoned mines located among some of the most valuable fish habitats in western North America,” said Chris Sergent, a researcher at FLBS and lead author of this element. The largest of these mines processes approximately 160,000 metric tons of land per day. »

The sergeant said not all mines present the same level of risk, but their review revealed that the damage from mining can be severe and long-term. The magnitude of mining pressures on these watersheds highlights the importance of careful assessment of risks to water, fish and communities.

The study examined the ecological complexity of rivers and how the mines could affect culturally and economically important fish species such as salmon by polluting the waters with heavy metals, burying stream and water habitats and diverting the water for ore processing. When not managed properly, it can be impossible to reverse and degrade landscapes for decades or even centuries.

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“Unfortunately, in some cases, we are learning the hard way that mines can have profound impacts on aquatic ecosystems, seeping away into the catchment area of ​​the actual mine site, at scales that were not anticipated in an assessment of the original impact,” Erin Sexton said. , research co-author and FLBS chief scientist. “For example, impacts have been documented from the Elk Valley coal mining complex in southeastern British Columbia more than 155 miles downriver from the mines, across the international border between the United States and Canada.”

The authors stress that modern and transparent science plays an important role in managing the potential impacts of mines. Emerging science from salmonid ecology, cumulative impacts, and how climate change is altering these landscapes can improve mine risk assessment.

The authors highlight four key issues that will be central to modern science-based risk assessment and mitigation: understanding the complexity and uncertainty of stressors, considering the cumulative effects of mining activities during the life cycle of a mine, developing realistic mitigation strategies and recognizing the potential for climate change. Change to amplify the risks.

“Emerging science is revealing the complex realities of how salmon watersheds function in this era of climate change as well as the many different pathways of risks posed by mines,” said co-author Jonathan Moore of Simon Fraser University in British Columbia. “Informed decision making will require risk assessments that include these challenging topics, ranging from cumulative impacts to climate change.”

Alors qu’un avenir à faible émission de carbone dépendra dans une certaine mesure des minéraux extraits, il est important de se demander si les projets miniers actuels et futurs sont exploités de manière à protéger les poissons, l’ants eau vers es quits et Hassan.

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“Our paper is neither for nor against mining, but it does describe current environmental challenges and gaps in applying science to mining governance,” the sergeant said. “We identify the need and opportunity for a robust, transparent, science-based assessment of risk, as well as an integration of the goals and values ​​of affected communities. Ultimately, some specific sites may be too valuable to be risked with significant risk being mine.”

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Materials offered by University of Montana. Note: Content can be modified according to style and length.