Acid Rock Drainage Remediation
A small open pit copper mine operated on Mount Washington, on Vancouver Island from 1964 to 1967 prior to going bankrupt. Although the mine ceased operations, the impacts to the watershed and its salmon resource have continued. At critical times for salmon late spring and fall lethal copper levels leaching into the Tsolum River are further impacted by snowmelt and heavy rainfall. In 1987, Federal and Provincial agencies funded studies, monitoring and on-site projects to address the problem. Partial covers, segregated drainage and other steps were taken to reduce the volume of toxic concentrations of copper entering and impacting the Tsolum River ecosystem. The work completed over this period cost $1.5 million and was successful in reducing the levels of copper in the water. It was not, however, enough to significantly improve water quality. By 1993 salmonid stocks in the Tsolum River had all but become extinct. In 2003 a unique partnership committee was formed between industry, government and the public with a goal to seek long term solutions to address cooper leachate (acid rock drainage) impacts from the abandoned Mount Washington open pit mine site. In March 2006, Minister Barry Penner, Ministry of Environment, delivered a $50,000 grant to the Tsolum River partners to undertake an engineering study to select and design a viable remediation plan to address decades of acid rock drainage impacting the Tsolum River ecosystem. Together with this grant, additional funding from a private donation and Fisheries and Oceans Canada, the partners were able to complete a site assessment and determine the best remediation options to meet water quality standards. In 2007, a detailed costing and site-specific designs for the remediation work. Working in partnership with Timber West (landowner), Tsolum River Restoration Society, BC Ministry of Environment, BC Ministry of Energy, Mines, and Petroleum Resources, the Mining Association of BC, and Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Pacific Salmon Foundation is working to ensure a healthy ecosystem and a rehabilitated sustainable fishery on the Tsolum River.