Mine officials have confirmed that thousands of snow geese were killed after they landed in contaminated pit waters.
Officials believe that up to 25,000 of the migrating birds made a landing at the Berkley Pit in Montana, and birds have since been seen dying in the area.
Mine workers had tried to keep the birds away from the acidic water but could not cope with their numbers. Every year, some birds are killed after landing in the water, but the sheer scale of the latest deaths is unprecedented.
Many businesses around the world make use of land remediation service specialists to make areas safe for wildlife and people, but freak incidents do occur. The Environmental Protection Agency had recorded just 14 snow goose deaths in Berkeley Pit from 2010 to 2103, making the latest events extremely unusual.
Environmental affairs manager Mark Thompson of Montana Resources, which is a caretaker of the pit mine, said that the numbers of birds in the area exceeded anything experienced in the last 21 years by a large amount. He said that only 2,000 to 5,000 birds were usually seen in the area each year as they make their winter and summer migrations.
Whilst some businesses need Land remediation service work to make their sites safe, others take other measures to increase safety. For example, the mine’s caretakers were previously told to take steps to scare birds away from the abandoned mine after 342 corpses of snow geese were discovered floating in the metal-laden waters of the pit in 1995. The water at the site is so acidic that it could dissolve the steel propeller on a motorboat, according to researchers.
“Bird hazing” attempts
Mine workers did use bird hazing methods on November 28 in a bid to scare the birds away and stop them from landing. These hazing attempts failed, however, and Mr Thompson said that the pit ended up looking like “700 acres of white birds.”
Experts believe that the snow geese had to land because of a storm approaching and were migrating late as a result of northern Arctic temperatures getting warmer. More information about snow geese can be found at https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Snow_Goose/lifehistory.
The caretakers of the mine could be subject to a fine if they are found to have failed to comply with the required bird hazing programme.