Alberta government knew bighorn sheep contaminated with coal mine selenium: scientist

·1 min read

EDMONTON — Alberta's environment department has known for years that toxins from old coal mines are contaminating populations of the province's official animal, the bighorn sheep.

Jeff Kneteman, a now-retired senior biologist with Alberta Environment, says the department failed to follow up his research showing high selenium levels in sheep living on the sites of old mines.

The government's own management plan for bighorns acknowledges the problem as far back as 2015.

But Kneteman says he was unable to interest the department in finding out what was going on.

Kneteman says his research showed selenium in those sheep were "miles higher" than in any other population in the province.

He says those sheep have some of the worst reproductive success of any herd he's measured, which is one of the effects of selenium contamination.

The news comes as the United Conservative government tries to convince Albertans that its regulatory and monitoring system can protect against the negative effects of more coal mining in the Rocky Mountains.

The Canadian Press