Ontario Mining Association member Xstrata Copper Canada, Kidd Operations through its financial and in-kind support of the Mattagami Sturgeon Restoration Project is giving new life to a fish species designated as of "special concern" by the province. Indications are that Xstrata, in partnership with the Ministry of Natural Resources, Ontario Power Generation, Timmins Fur Council and Club Navigateur, is experiencing success in re-establishing the lake sturgeon population in a section of the Mattagami River watershed.
Lake sturgeons are descendants of a prehistoric fish going back to the Mesozoic Era. The fish appear to be much the same today as 100-million-year-old fossils, which have been found. The Mattagami River flows north through Timmins into the James Bay drainage basin, which is part of the lake sturgeon habitat.
This fish, due to habitat loss and over fishing, had disappeared from a section of the Mattagami River between two hydro dams. To help re-establish the species, 50 adult sturgeons were transferred back into this habitat in 2002. Thirteen out of this original group of fish were marked with radio transmitters to monitor movement and potential spawning areas.
Evidence from recent studies suggests this re-introduction of sturgeon is working. Sightings of juvenile sturgeon have increased. This is important because a sturgeon's lifespan is typically about 55 years for males and 80 years for females. These fish, however, are slow to mature. They do not reproduce until 15 years of age for males and 25 years of age for females. Females spawn only once every four to six years.
During the summer of 2011, 20 more fish were marked with transmitters to provide data on population restoration and seasonal habitat usage. The transmitters have a battery life of about three years. This will allow for tracking at least until 2014.
"Xstrata through its Sustainable Development Policy and Standards as well as the Mining Association of Canada's Towards Sustainable Mining Biodiversity Management Protocol seeks to assess opportunities to enhance biodiversity," said David Yaschyshyn, superintendent of environment, Xstrata Copper Kidd Operations. "It was a natural fit for Xstrata, which operates its Kidd mine within the Mattagami River watershed, to partner and lend our support to enhancing knowledge with the goal of restoring sturgeon to its historical range."
Modern society demands the products of mining. However, by its very nature, there is no denying that mining has an impact on the environment. Mines in Ontario work extremely hard to design and develop properties that minimize the footprint and the impact of their operations. They also know that mining is a temporary land use and mining companies are nurturing great expertise at land reclamation and rehabilitation.
Often mining companies in Ontario go beyond the boundaries of their operations to enhance environments and ecosystems. Xstrata's involvement in the Mattagami Sturgeon Restoration Project is one example of this.
Xstrata Copper is the fourth largest copper producer in the world. Its Kidd Operations in Timmins produce copper and zinc concentrates. The site employs approximately 1,400 people including contractors. The mine, which started operations in 1965, is the deepest base metal mine in the world.
*Peter McBride is manager of communications at the Ontario Mining Association. Contact him as [email protected].