Open pit at Granisle Mine. (SkeenaWild photo/Lakes District News)

Two decommissioned mines could be harming the water and aquatic life at Babine Lake

Report finds contamination and poor monitoring of Bell and Granisle mines

Two decommissioned copper mines that continue to discharge mine-impacted water into Babine Lake, lack proper monitoring and government regulations, says a report released by researchers with SkeenaWild Conservation Trust in partnership with the Lake Babine Nation.

The report, released last month by the trust, has discovered that the two open-pit mines — Bell and Granisle mines, have been out of commission for several years and yet continue to discharge treated and untreated mine-impacted water into the Babine Lake, that could potentially affect the aquatic life in the lake, especially the sockeye salmon, a major food source for many.

“We heard particularly from Indigenous groups like Lake Babine Nation that there is some concerns, questions, people weren’t really sure whether the mines were being monitored adequately, whether there are potential impacts to the lake, so we wanted to take a look at the monitoring data that is available over the past few years just to see whether we can find any red flags and what we ended up finding was bigger than that. There are larger overarching problems with how the mines are regulated and monitored. We also found evidence of aquatic impacts,” said Adrienne Berchtold, ecologist and mining impacts researcher with the trust.

According to the report, the current permits regulating discharges from Bell and Granisle mines are limited in extent and stringency. The provincial government is responsible for giving permits to the mines to release certain amount of impacted water into local streams and lakes.

The report found that the Granisle mine site does not have any volume or quality limits applied to its multiple discharge sources. One source of Granisle’s discharge to the lake had average copper concentrations 20 times higher than the provincial guideline and nearly 250 times higher than the threshold for negative effects to salmon reported in the scientific literature.

Permits for Bell mine allow high discharge concentrations of some harmful contaminants such as copper, iron, and zinc and leave many other contaminants – such as aluminum, cadmium, and selenium, all of which are known to harm salmon at elevated concentrations – completely unregulated. Discharge permits for Bell mine allow metal concentrations up to 25 times higher than provincial water quality guidelines for the protection of aquatic life.

According to Berchtold, while the findings are not a secret and could be found in the monitoring reports written by the company Glencore Canada Corporation, they are difficult to get access to as a lot of those reports aren’t made public.

“We found that the sediment in the lake has quite an elevated level of copper and the water quality near the mines is elevated in copper and sulphates. We also found that the tissues in the fish in the lake, have elevations of a number of metals and in the cases of some metals like copper and cadmium, the elevations are above levels that are known to be frequently associated with negative effects such as their sensory abilities could get impacted, often that would mean they have trouble finding food, trouble avoiding gradation and sometimes metal contamination can affect their reproduction as well,” said Berchtold.

The report discovered that the aquatic monitoring program of Babine Lake also contains significant gaps that severely limit the monitoring information obtained and tracking of mine-related aquatic impacts.

The report raises concerns that these mines could be impacting the salmon in Babine lake and in the long term would have serious impacts on the salmon run as the lake provides for 90 per cent of the watershed’s sockeye salmon. However, lack of focused monitoring on sockeye salmon has resulted in insufficient data and gaps in information to determine the effects on the food fish.

Greg Knox, executive director of the SkeenaWild Conservation Trust said, “Sockeye salmon really is the foundation of food fishing for First Nations, for the commercial fishery and also supports the recreational fisheries in the Skeena system and we need pressure to change practices at these mine sites to ensure that salmon in Babine lake are protected.”

“Our hope is to start a dialogue, catch the attention of the mining companies and the government to discuss how the monitoring of these closed mines can be improved. Increasing awareness and getting as many voices behind us is sort of the hope,” said Berchtold.


Priyanka Ketkar
Multimedia journalist
@PriyankaKetkar

priyanka.ketkar@ldnews.net


Like us on Facebook and follows us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Comox Valley medical clinics are all open, including the availability to book face-to-face care (i.e. for a physical examination) as per your clinic’s protocol (most clinics operate a “virtual care first” policy). ADOBE STOCK IMAGE
Northern Health launches virtual primary care clinic

Northerners without a family physician or nurse practitioner will now have access to primary care

Demonstrators lined Hwy 16 May 5 to mark the National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. (Deb Meissner photo)
VIDEO: Smithers gathering marks Red Dress Day honouring missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls

Approximately 70 people lined Hwy 16, drumming, singing and holding up placards

“Skeena,” by John Hudson and Paul Hanslow is one of five fonts in the running to become the default for Microsoft systems and Office programs. (Black Press Media File Photo)
Font named after Skeena River could become the next Microsoft default

One of the five new fonts will replace Calibri, which has been Microsoft’s default since 2007

The road to Telegraph Creek (Hwy 51) was closed April 15 due to a washout. On May 4, the road was opened to light-duty passenger vehicles during specific times. (BC Transportation and Infrastructure/Facebook)
Telegraph Creek Road opens for light-duty vehicles

Road has been closed since April 15 due to a washout

Daily confirmed COVID-19 cases reported to B.C. public health, seven-day rolling average in white, to May 12, 2021. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C. preparing ‘Restart 2.0’ from COVID-19 as June approaches

Daily infections fall below 500 Friday, down to 387 in hospital

On Friday, May 14 at Meadow Gardens Golf Club in Pitt Meadows, Michael Caan joined a very elite club of golfers who have shot under 60 (Instagram)
Crowds at English Bay were blasted with a large beam of light from an RCMP Air-1 helicopter on Friday, May 14. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Marc Grandmaison
Police enlist RCMP helicopter to disperse thousands crowded on Vancouver beach

On Friday night, police were witness to ‘several thousand people staying well into the evening’

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

People shop in Chinatown in Vancouver on Friday, February 5, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Vancouver community leaders call for action following 717% rise in anti-Asian hate crimes

‘The alarming rise of anti-Asian hate in Canada and south of the border shows Asians have not been fully accepted in North America,’ says Carol Lee

Sinikka Gay Elliott was reported missing on Salt Spring Island on Wednesday, May 12. (Courtesty Salt Spring RCMP)
Body of UBC professor found on Salt Spring Island, no foul play suspected

Sinikka Elliott taught sociology at the university

The first Black judge named to the BC Supreme Court, Selwyn Romilly, was handcuffed at 9:15 a.m. May 14 while walking along the seawall. (YouTube/Screen grab)
Police apologize after wrongly arresting B.C.’s first Black Supreme Court Justice

At 81 years old, the retired judge was handcuffed in public while out for a walk Friday morning

Dr. Steve Beerman, of Nanaimo, shows off his Dr. David Bishop Gold Medal, awarded for distinguished medical service. (Karl Yu/News Bulletin)
Queen presents Vancouver Island doctor with award for global drowning prevention

Dr. Steve Beerman receives Royal Life Saving Society’s King Edward VII Cup at virtual ceremony

Former UFV Cascades wrestling coach Arjan Singh Bhullar is now the ONE heavyweight champion after defeating Brandon Vera via TKO in round two on Saturday in Singapore. (ONE Championship)
Former UFV wrestling coach wins MMA championship

Arjan Singh Bhullar captures ONE heavyweight title, first Indian origin fighter to achieve honour

Most Read