November 17, 2021
Research published in Science of the Total Environment explores potential outcomes of development of coal mines in the Oldman River Basin of southwest Alberta on selenium concentrations in receiving environments (https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0048969721054711). IEG ecologist Justin Straker, a co-author, worked with colleagues at MacDonald Hydrology, Apex Geoscience, and the University of Waterloo to simulate the effects of possible mine-development scenarios, considering the interrelationships between land use, climate, water quality, and water quantity. This study used novel methods to link simulated mass loading of selenium from coal mining to a hydrologically driven mechanistic contaminant-transport model incorporating future climate change. Model results indicate that estimated selenium concentrations, absent any attenuation, are likely to be substantially above most water quality guidelines and strong reliance on mitigation technologies would be required to maintain adequate water quality in the watershed if mine development were to occur.