Quantifying the effects of mining activities on the health of streams in the South Nahanni Watershed (NWT)
Principal Investigator: Scrimgeour, Garry J (3)
Licence Number: 14396
Organization: Parks Canada Agency, Calgary, Alberta
Licenced Year(s): 2009 2008 2007
Issued: Jul 21, 2008
Project Team: Dr. Monique Dubé (Co-researcher, University of Saskatchewan), Dr. Roland Hall (Co-researcher, University of Waterloo), Ms. Kathryn Thomas (Field assistant & Co-researcher, University of Waterloo), Ms. Dana Haggarty (Field assistant, Parks Canada Agency), Ms. Nancy Glozier (Field assistant, Environment Canada)

Objective(s): The objectives of this research are three-fold: 1) To quantify natural variability of benthic macroinvertebrate communities at reference sites un-impacted by human activity; 2) To determine whether mining activities degrade the health of streams in the South Nahanni Watershed; 3) To understand whether pigments in algal cells can be used to assess stream health.

Project Description: The objectives of this research are three-fold: 1) To quantify natural variability of benthic macroinvertebrate communities at reference sites un-impacted by human activity; 2) To determine whether mining activities degrade the health of streams in the South Nahanni Watershed; 3) To understand whether pigments in algal cells can be used to assess stream health.

This project will be conducted through various forms of sampling from areas surrounding mines and compared to reference samples. These natural, reference conditions for all the sampling (both water and macroinvertebrate communities) will be collected in wadeable streams within the South Nahanni River Watershed. One composite water quality sample will be collected from various sites and analyzed for general chemistry and composition. Samples of benthic macroinvertebrate will also be collected at selected sites, sorted, counted and identified. Lastly, a composite sample of benthic algae from the upper surfaces of stones will be sampled at the sites using standard techniques. A helicopter will be used for transportation between sites, with some sampling being completed at both the Tungsten Mine and Prairie Creek base camps.

To assess affects of mining on stream health, the researchers will collect samples from different sites below known point sources and compare the reference samples. This will allow the assessment of changes in aquatic health in aquatic biota downstream of sewage treatment exfiltration basins.

The results of this study will be communicated at one national and one northern scientific conference. Results may also form the basis of the EEM program for the Tungsten Mine and foundations for a cumulative effects assessment for Prairie Creek Mine. In addition, a summary of the research will be compiled and provided to communities. Contact the researcher for a copy. The results of this research will be used to make recommendations to customize northern monitoring programs currently required for some mines under the Canadian Environmental Effects Monitoring Program of the federal Fisheries Act.
Fiedlwork will be conducted from August 01 to September 30, 2008 in numerous sites along the streams and rivers in the South Nahanni Watershed including: Flat River, Prairie Creek, Jackfish River, Meilleur River, Caribou River, McLeod Creek, Fishtrap Creek, Sundog Creek, Corridor Creek, Prairie Creek, Wrigley Creek, Flat River, Pass Creek, Rabbit Kettle River, Flood Creek, Bologna Creek, Jorgenson Creek, Black Wolf Creek, and Broken Skull River.