Mining Away our Heritage
by aseth on October 7, 2016 - 5:33pm
The CBC published an article titled “UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Canada threatened most often by oil, gas and mining” in which they discuss the impacts that mining has on the Canadian wilderness over the past 30 years. According to data collected by UNESCO, physical resource extraction accounts for almost one third of threats to heritage sites with the majority of which occurred between 2000 and 2013. According to Peter Tyedmers of Dalhousie University’s School for Resource and Environmental Studies, it is not surprising that this is happening. He states that “…When prices are high, people are looking for opportunities to develop”. But this development comes at a cost. UNESCO has noted it’s concern with open-pit mining releasing contaminants in the vicinity of the Peace-Athabasca Delta. Large developments upstream of Wood Buffalo National Park release contaminant into the delta, take up large volume of water from the river, and are interrupting bird migratory patterns. UNESCO has requested an environmental assessment be done on the area surrounding the park and has asked the Canadian government not to make any decisions about developments that would be difficult to reverse. I believe that UNESCO is taking the correct steps to ensuring that these sites are kept as clean as possible.
Of the 41 reported threats to heritage sites, Wood Buffalo Park received the most with nine, followed by the Historic District of Old Quebec, and Rocky Mountain Park which both had eight. Wood Buffalo Park is both nationally and internationally important in the world of biodiversity for many reasons. It houses one of the world’s largest inland freshwater delta, it is the only nesting spot for the endangered whooping crane in North America, and it is the only place left in the world where buffalo and wolves interact naturally as predator and prey. This poses a significant burden on the Canadian government, as well as mining companies thinking about developing nearby land, to take extra precaution in order to ensure minimal environmental damage to such an important biological site. Managing these resources can be tricky, often due to a conflict of values between what the state wants, and what other parties, such as nearby communities and environmental groups, want.
As with many other resources, mining is an important part of Canada’s economy meaning that developments like the ones near Wood Buffalo park do have an impact. This puts the government in a very difficult situation when approving these projects. It comes down to whether the impact that the mine will have on the environment is worth the money that would be made from the mine.