Guy Gilron, Richard Wenning and William Adams
The coal sector is receiving intense scrutiny in western Canada. Among the issues discussed by opponents of coal mining are environmental concerns about the significance of elevated selenium in surface water bodies near mine sites. Claims made by opponents when reporting scientific information about selenium in western Canada have unnecessarily alarmed the public and raised fears unwarranted by the current scientific understanding of selenium. Most claims are not supported by scientific research and environmental monitoring studies. In the absence of accurate communication of selenium science and environmental risks, there is a high possibility that misinformation, intentional or otherwise, will unduly influence decisions about the future of Canadian mining policy.
This paper briefly reviews:
• the current understanding of selenium ecotoxicology and risk to aquatic life;
• the communication on risk that the news media and opponents have adopted with the public when addressing the selenium issue;
• several key concerns raised about selenium releases from coal mining from a scientific viewpoint; and,
• ultimately, the paper advocates for the implementation of regulatory decisions informed by credible scientific evidence.