Mining companies keep draining Arctic lakes and moving all of their fish – by Hilary Beaumont (Vice News – July 5, 2016)

In what’s being called a “fishout program,” Canada’s most remote northern territory has given the go-ahead for a mining company to drain an entire lake and relocate all of its fish. Once mining is done, the company plans to re-flood the lakebed and put the fish back.

Though the plan may seem absurd at first blush, it’s actually the second time the mining company has relocated fish from a lake in order to expand its open pit Meadowbank gold mine — a practice by mining companies that’s become surprisingly common in northern Canada.

It’s become so normal that the Canadian government drew up guidelines in 2011 for how mining companies should drain lakes and relocate fish. Agnico Eagle Mines Ltd. wants to drain 500,000 cubic metres of water from Phaser Lake in Nunavut, one of Canada’s three arctic territories.

The lake, a wolf head-shaped body of water with a maximum depth of five metres that’s home to a small population of lake trout and round whitefish, would be drained and treated. From there, the water and the fish will be dumped into nearby Wally Lake.

The fish relocation would happen before the end of August, if the project gets final approval from Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada.

It’s unlikely all the fish will survive the relocation. In the company’s previous lake-draining fish relocation, 40 percent of the fish died. And in a January 15 letter, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans warned the company that Wally Lake “may already be at carrying capacity,” meaning new fish would have to compete for the same resources as the fish that are already there.

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