British Columbia Mine Reclamation Symposium

Constructing habitat for a sustainable native fisheries in the Sphinx Lake end pit lake system Brinker, C.J.; Symbaluk, M.D.; Boorman, J.G.


Fisheries habitat and watershed integrity are highly valued resources in the subalpine natural subregion of west-central Alberta. Teck’s Luscar open pit coal mine has been in operation in this area since 1969, and 51-C6 pit was mined from 1992 to 1999. Accomplishing a sound development and reclamation plan to meet biodiversity objectives for 51-C6 pit included operational considerations such as surface water diversions and post-mining fisheries habitat development. The pit had to be mined and reclaimed such that the end pit and inlet/outlet streams would sustain in perpetuity the full range of habitat and watershed features needed to support native Athabasca Rainbow Trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) and Bull Trout (Salvelinus confluentus). The five year post-reclamation fisheries habitat and population assessment indicates a surging Rainbow Trout population, high growth rates and enhanced habitat conditions as compared with the pre-mine coldwater, lotic system. This paper covers the process from environmental assessment through construction and reclamation to closure assessment, highlighting the challenges, uncertainties, and successes of Teck’s award-winning Sphinx Lake system within the context of biological diversity.

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