SAFS researchers and graduates coauthor international letter addressing transboundary mining pollution

A number of UW researchers have joined an international group of science and policy experts to publish a joint commentary in the journal Science, calling on U.S. and Canadian leaders to address damages and risks caused by Canadian mine pollution flowing downstream into U.S. states. Led by researchers at the University of Montana, the cohort included five graduates and one PhD candidate from the UW School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences (SAFS).

The letter examines Canada’s environmental assessment and regulation of large-scale industrial mines in transboundary watersheds. “Environmental baseline datasets, with which mine permitting decisions are made, are frequently insufficient and underpredict environmental impacts mines ultimately impose,” said co-author Sarah O’Neal, a UW SAFS PhD candidate in the Schindler lab. O’Neal’s current research highlights the importance of establishing transparent and peer-reviewed environmental baseline data for critical salmon habitat at the Pebble Mine site in southwest Alaska. She explains the permitting and operation of mines within transboundary watersheds are further complicated by jurisdictional and political factors.

“Pollution from mining activity, if not properly predicted, monitored, and mitigated, can cause severe environmental degradation downstream,” she said. “Mining activities are a major source of pollution throughout the western U.S., including in Washington state, where salmon runs are already experiencing historic lows.”

The complete letter can be found on the Science journal’s website.

This article was adapted from a University of Montana press release.

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