Rio Tinto investing in climate change research on Nechako watershed species

21 May 2019

Rio Tinto and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) are each contributing $500,000 over four years to study the impact of climate change on Nechako watershed species, namely sockeye salmon, chinook salmon and white sturgeon.

The collaborative research is the first multi-species study of water temperature requirements in an important managed watershed in Western Canada and will be undertaken across multiple academic institutions in British Columbia (University of British Columbia, University of Victoria) and in Quebec (Institut National Recherche Scientifique (INRS), École de technologie supérieure (ETS)).

One of the challenges presented by climate change is the need for reservoir operators to optimize operations in the context of shifting environmental conditions. Rio Tinto owns and operates a dam on the Nechako River to supply hydro power to its Kitimat smelter, which produces some of the world's lowest carbon footprint aluminium.

The benefits of this study include improved modelling tools for flow and water temperature management and training of highly qualified personnel with cross-disciplinary experience.

Rio Tinto BC Works acting general manager Andrew Czornohalan said "At Rio Tinto, our aim is to be part of the solution to tackling climate change. This research will help us determine how we may look to adapt our operations over the long term to mitigate potential effects of climate change. we are very excited about this multi-species study, which will build on hydrological research we have actively been in involved in for several years in British Columbia."

Professor in hydrology at INRS and project lead Dr. André St-Hilaire said "Our research team, which includes biologists, climate scientist, hydrologists and engineers looks forward to collaborating with Rio Tinto to develop tools that will enable our industrial partner to better adapt reservoir management to climate change, while taking into account the needs of three iconic fish species on the Nechako River. This unique partnership has the potential to become a benchmark for reservoir owners and operators in Canada and abroad."

Notes for editors

This initiative will complement Rio Tinto's Water Engagement Initiative in British Columbia, which will bring together Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities to identify options to improve reservoir and river management. For more information visit

Rio Tinto recently published Our approach to climate change, which shows how the company plans to contribute to the transition to a low carbon future. All or Rio Tinto's aluminium operations in Canada are now certified by the Aluminium Stewardship Initiative (ASI) against its Performance Standards, highest internationally recognized standard for environmental, social and governance practices.