Mine effluent has impacted fish stocks in many systems. The Tsolum River and the Coquihalla River have been particularly impacted. Britannia Mines has had the most toxic runoff in Canada, flowing directly into Howe Sound – a situation now receiving some treatment. The impacts from acid mine drainage can last hundreds of years.
Because lakes and rivers are fish habitat, they are protected by the Fisheries Act. This Act is Canada’s oldest environmental legislation and prohibits the release of “deleterious substances” into fish-bearing waters and the alteration or destruction of fish habitat. However, in 2002, the Metal Mining Effluent Regulation was added essentially allowing the re-classifying of any natural water body that gets listed on it as a “tailings impoundment area.” Once a lake or river gets listed, it is no longer considered a natural water body and no longer protected by the Fisheries Act. A mining company can use then it as a dumping ground for millions of tonnes of tailings and waste rock.