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Remediation

Hazeltine Creek Remediation Wildlife Monitoring Plan Update

A Wildlife Monitoring Plan has been implemented in the Hazeltine Creek corridor, utilizing wildlife cameras to build an inventory of animals that are using the corridor to support local wildlife studies.

Environmental monitoring programs and closure research projects at Mount Polley mine site have successfully reached several milestones since inception in 2014. Post-remediation monitoring in lower Hazeltine Creek and Edney Creek have reported significant improvement in water quality to promote increased aquatic habitation. All areas that were disturbed by the 2020 construction near Hazeltine and Edney Creek were seeded with a variety of local, non-invasive vegetation comprised of Mountain Brome, Native Red Fescue, Rocky Mountain Fescue, Bluebunch Wheatgrass, Blue Wildrye, Fireweed, and Big Leaf Lupine. This selective plant growth not only helps re-introduce wildlife usage in the area but, creates a suitable habitat for a diverse range of wildlife activities from nesting birds to foraging and predator/prey interactions. To better understand the impacts and implications of these programs and remediation efforts on Mount Polley as well as potentially other mine sites, specialized wildlife cameras have been installed for mammal species monitoring. As a result, an inventory of identified species including numerous bird species and even some large insects within the Hazeltine Creek corridor by remote cameras have captured a library collection of raw footage.

The gallery below offers a preview to the library of photos retrieved by on-site staff.

In addition to creating a mammal inventory, the study was also intended to identify whether wildlife usage was negatively impacted following the dam incident. However, review of the current inventory suggests that usage was not impaired. On the ground, staff are also seeing a prevalence of locally known mammal species such as bears, mule deer, and moose.

Although it is a little too early to confirm any trends, photos of wolverine, which are quite uncommon in the area, also suggests that the remediation efforts have potentially created an environment that is becoming well received by a more diverse group of terrestrial lifeforms and continues to be home to the local ecosystem entirety.

The team will continue to conduct non-intrusive, wildlife research monitoring to better understand local animal activity and behaviour. Everyone on site shares their wildlife observations with staff, which are recorded in a wildlife tracking table. Mount Polley’s team are committed to completing the in-stream work this year as well as the remaining terrestrial remediation within the next two years. Updates on the remediation work at Mount Polley mine are available in the quarterly Community Update newsletters on mountpolley.com.

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Remediation

Over 100 sockeye salmon adults return to spawn in Hazeltine Creek

After seven years of remediation work in Hazeltine Creek in response to the 2014 tailings dam breach, the salmon have returned to the creek to spawn.  In stream work was completed in late August this year, just in time for the sockeye migration in the region.

In the early stages of the Mount Polley remediation effort, 40 thousand truckloads of rock were used to build a foundation channel along Hazeltine Creek from Polley Lake to Quesnel Lake. Next, section by section, the remediation team modified the initial channel and added sinuosity and habitat features to provide instream cover for fish, enhancing the habitat value. These features included spawning platforms, pools, riffles, rock boulder clusters, root wads, and logs.

The biological design for habitat features was developed collaboratively with Mount Polley’s technical experts, Williams Lake First Nation, Xatśūll First Nation, and at the regulatory level, with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations.  Collectively the group is referred to as the “Habitat Remediation Working Group.”

Over the past few weeks over 100 sockeye salmon adults have returned to Hazeltine Creek to spawn. “The focus of the Hazeltine Creek remediation effort at Mount Polley has been to repair and rehabilitate Hazeltine Creek so that it becomes a self-sustaining, productive fish habitat.” said Brian Kynoch, President of Imperial Metals. 

Trout have been using portions of the rehabilitated creek to spawn since 2017, and now another major milestone has been achieved with the return of sockeye salmon to the creek. The presence of the sockeye salmon and various other fish species signals that the remedial work has begun to restore ecological function.  This is not only evident in the aquatic environment but also evident across the terrestrial landscape where plant communities are developing, and abundant wildlife is observed.  It is expected that as both the aquatic and the terrestrial ecosystems mature, further ecological function will emerge, and the site will host an even broader array of organisms.

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Remediation

Fish populations thriving at Mount Polley

Habitat modelling reveals four times more juvenile fish are expected in Hazeltine Creek post-remediation efforts

Mount Polley Mining Corporation is pleased to report that fish populations are thriving at Mount Polley.  Further, the current habitat of upper Hazeltine Creek is over 1.5 times more likely to spawn fish than the pre-breach habitat.  A recent report prepared by Golder, Mount Polley’s Environmental Consultant, reveals that the fish population in Hazeltine Creek is increasing as a result of the remediation efforts made by the Mount Polley Habitat Remediation Working Group* since 2014.  Computer modelling of the fish population projects that there could be up to four times more juvenile trout in Hazeltine Creek in 2031 than in 2014.

“By May 2015 the water in Hazeltine Creek was running clear, and the bugs – invertebrates that provide food for fish – were starting to grow in the creek, so it was decided that the installation of new fish habitat could begin and this work started in 2016,” stated Lee Nikl, Principal and Senior Environmental Scientist – Mine Water and Environment Group at Golder.  “By late 2017, fish were let back into the creek.”

We expect there to be almost twice as many juvenile trout in Hazeltine Creek by 2022.  The new report uncovers that this is an outcome of the remediated habitat features in the creek, as well as the unobstructed conditions for upstream passage of fish, which are expected to persist in the long term.  The Habitat Remediation Working Group has been guiding and overseeing habitat remediation since 2014 and “the design objectives and the designs themselves are the outcome of collaborative design with the Habitat Remediation Working Group”, said Nikl.  “The focus of the remediation effort at Mount Polley has been to repair and rehabilitate Hazeltine Creek so that it becomes a self-sustaining, productive fish habitat.” said Brian Kynoch, President of Imperial Metals.