Tracing Mining’s Threat to U.S. Waters – by Jim Robbins (New York Times – July 11, 2023)

Environmental concerns are raised anew about potential contamination from Canadian open-pit mines flowing through the waterways into Montana’s lakes, harming fish.

PABLO, Mont. — In the mountain streams of southern British Columbia and northern Montana, a rugged part of the world, fish with misshapen skulls and twisted spines have been caught over the years.

Many scientists attribute the malformed creatures and declines in certain fish populations to five enormous open-pit coal mines that interrupt this wild landscape of dense forest flush with grizzly bears and wolves.

For decades, these mines owned by Teck Resources, a multinational mining company based in Canada, have been the subject of environmental concerns because of chemicals like selenium, a mining waste product, that leach into mountain rivers flowing through Indigenous land and across the border into U.S. waterways.

Selenium is a naturally occurring chemical important in the environment as a trace element. But selenium pollution has long been recognized as an extremely hazardous byproduct of coal mining. In larger concentrations, the chemical accumulates in the eggs and reproductive organs of fish and birds, and can cause a variety of detrimental effects, including lowered reproduction, deformities and death. The risk to human health from eating contaminated fish is not well understood.

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