Go Fish!

Author: Glencore Canada | Date: 14/10/2016

When a mine wraps up its main operations, it can measure its success in many ways: the amount of ore procured over the mine’s life, the professional accomplishments of the people who worked there, or a track record of safety achieved through teamwork and leadership. At Glencore’s Montcalm Mine, a nickel and copper mine situated 85 kilometres northwest of Timmins, Ontario, and which wrapped up operations in 2009, these are all certainly successes upon which to reflect. But the mine has one more indication of a job well done: fish.

A large part of Glencore’s business philosophy is a responsibility to the environment. While a mine is operational, everything is done to minimize environmental impact, such as reducing emissions, properly containing waste, and using technologies that are less invasive to the earth. But a great deal of work is also done at the end of a mine’s life to restore the area to a more natural and thriving state. In the case of the Montcalm Mine, this has in part been focused on the resurgence of the area’s native fish, the lake sturgeon, in the nearby Groundhog River.

Lake sturgeon, an impressive species that can grow up to six feet long and live to be more than one hundred years old, once thrived in the area. However, overfishing, dams, and other industrial and residential interferences saw the sturgeon population drop significantly. In fact, the fish became so scarce that the lake sturgeon was added to Ontario’s list of species of “special concern.”

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The lake sturgeon is often called a "living fossil," part of a family of fish that has existed for more than 135 million years. Incredibly, the average life span of a male in the wild is 55 years, while females can live up to 150 years. They can reach lengths of up to two metres and weigh up to 90 kilograms.

The local community didn’t take this news lightly. Together with business and industry partners, residents created the Mattagami Sturgeon Restoration Project in the hopes of repopulating the species. In 2002, 50 adult lake sturgeon were transferred to the region, 13 of which were marked with radio transmitters to monitor movement and potential spawning areas. In 2011, 20 additional fish were marked with transmitters.

Evidence from recent studies suggests this re-introduction of sturgeon is working and sightings of young sturgeon have increased, indicating that spawning is on the rise.

Additionally, Glencore commissioned annual studies via its Sudbury Integrated Nickel Operations between 2004 and 2013 to see if the discharge of water from the mine had any impact on the sturgeon. The recent 2014 study summary report has shown that this activity has not impacted the species or their activities whatsoever.

The Mattagami Sturgeon Restoration Project likely would not have been successful without the financial support of Glencore’s Kidd Operations, which has so far donated $21,000 to the project, part of a $70,000 commitment to local sustainable environment and biodiversity projects. This commitment has contributed to giving the lake sturgeon a new lease on life in northeastern Ontario and is a symbol of the organization’s pledge to make a positive impact in communities, even six years after the Montcalm Mine’s operations have been completed.