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EMCBC Mining and the Environment Primer: Roads

Jamie Kneen Communications and Outreach Coordinator responsible for: strategic research, social media, and public engagement; our Africa program, environmental assessment, and uranium mining.

Some of the most significant direct and indirect impacts of mining result from the construction of exploration and mining roads.

Roads and unlimited access have a negative impact on wilderness areas in four ways:

  1. Habitat Fragmentation
    Roads disrupt calving/rearing grouds, key forage areas, movement and migratory routes.   This disruption can cause avoidance behaviours and flight response in animals.
  2. Increased Wildlife Mortality
    Collisions between vehicles and wildlife occur.  Roads allow uncontrolled hunting, poaching and motorized entry to previously inaccessible areas.  Unrestricted snowmobile and ATV access at a time when wildlife is restricted to its winter range "silently" increases mortality.
  3. Stream Sedimentation
    Degradation of stream and river beds resulting from road building and drainage changes obstructs salmon, trout, and other fish reproduction.
  4. Pollutants in Pristine Areas
    Gas, oil, drill-core slurry, ground core and assay chemicals, abandoned structures, garbage and noise continue to be problems from old and new operations.

Rosemary Fox, Smithers resident and EMCBC director, has this to say of one BC mining road:

The Ominica Mining Road, unilaterally pushed north over the years by Ministry of Mines...has had and continues to have serious impacts on fish and wildlife.  In the mid-'70s, the road was extended north across the headwaters of the Sustut into the Finaly drainage.  As a consequence, caribou in that area were decimated and salmon and steelhead rivers were damaged by siltation because of poor construction.

Road access is a major issue in the Taku watershed in northwestern British Columbia. The proposed reopening of the Tulsequah Chief gold mine, recently approved by the BC government, would push a road into one of the largest remaining unroaded areas in the province.