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UNDERGROUND AQUACULTURE: How many fish per tonne?

Ontario Mining Association member Vale, after a successful pilot project, will soon be producing fish near its underground greenhouse at the Creighton mine in Sudbury. When they resurface, the subterranean grown fish will be released for...



Ontario Mining Association member Vale, after a successful pilot project, will soon be producing fish near its underground greenhouse at the Creighton mine in Sudbury. When they resurface, the subterranean grown fish will be released for restocking Sudbury area lakes and rivers.

Back in November of last year, Vale’s environment department placed fingerling rainbow trout in 1,500-L tanks at its surface greenhouse. Five months of care and feeding resulting in the rainbow trout growing to about 20 cm in length. Recently, they were given a new home after being transported to the Onaping River.

“We are very proud of this project and its successful outcome,” said Glen Watson from Vale’s environment group. “The fish will provide a boost to the river’s fish population and biodiversity, providing a highly valued resource for the community to enjoy.”

Vale worked with local fish farming expert Mike Meeker to set up the operation and with the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources to identify appropriate water bodies in which to release the fish. While producing fish underground, Vale will continue to raise rainbow trout at its surface greenhouse.

At the Creighton mine, Vale has long operated an underground greenhouse producing saplings for reforestation efforts in the Sudbury area. A fish farm will soon join the underground greenhouse. Vale aims to replace chemical fertilizers used in the underground tree farm with natural waste fertilizer provided by the fish. How is that for a sustainable fish and tree growing operation?

The company intends to continue working with the Ministry of Natural Resources and local fish and game clubs to select donor sites for the fish. Placing fish stocks in local lakes and rivers helps meet goals of Sudbury’s Biodiversity Action Plan by enhancing fish populations in formerly stressed water bodies.

The Creighton mine began producing nickel in 1901. As well as being home to an underground greenhouse and soon a fish farm, the mine also houses an underground physics laboratory located more than 2 km below surface. The SNOLAB started as the Sudbury Neutrino Observatory before being converted into this new permanent experimental site.

Along with these other multi-faceted duties, mining operations continue at Creighton. Production from the Creighton mine is processed in Vale’s Clarabelle mill. How many facilities in the world produce metal, grow trees, build fish stocks and help science understand the origins of the universe? 

Mining companies are responsible, solution-providing partners in society. They do more than find, extract and process minerals essential to our modern lifestyle. They volunteer and add great value to the quality of life in their communities and beyond.

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* Peter McBride is the OMA’s Manager of Communications. Contact him at pmcbride@oma.on.ca.