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The mining industry is competing with salmon for rivers created by disappearing glaciers

New study finds that mining companies are staking claims on future salmon habitats as glaciers retreat. The rivers born of disappearing glaciers are already arenas of competition between salmon and the mining industry.​

The study, published in Science, was led by our own Dr. Jonathan Moore and Dr. Kara Pitman, in collaboration with researchers from Gitanyow First Nation Hereditary Chiefs, the University of Montana Flathead Lake Biological Station, and Taku River Tlingit First Nation. 

The research, which builds on previous work led by Kara Pitman, found that of the 114 sub-watersheds in the transboundary region with future salmon habitat, 25 had more than 50 percent of future salmon habitat near a mining claim. In addition, over half of Canada's future salmon habitats have medium or high mineral potential, an indicator of future potential mining pressure. The paper maps out these emerging land use conflicts and identifies policy blind spots and key opportunities for the stewardship of these nascent habitats.

As climate change rapidly transforms the world, environmental policies may struggle to keep pace. In the case of mining and salmon, the current environmental assessment laws fail to consider the future habitat value of an area being altered by climate change when evaluating a mine's potential impact.

These policies are being applied to mostly unceded Indigenous lands. Current BC mining policies allow mining companies to stake claims on lands with minimal government oversight and without consultation with First Nations, often violating the duty to consult with First Nations rightsholders. Different First Nations are advancing Indigenous Protected Areas and forward-looking land-use plans, incorporating climate change and holistic perspectives into environmental stewardship.

This new research is a globally significant example of the critical need for proactive science and policy for climate resilience and environmental justice.


Moore, Pitman, Whited, Marsden, Sexton, Sergeant, and Connor. 2023. Mining stakes claim on salmon futures as glaciers retreat. Science.

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