Sustainable Industry Development on Display in Southern Saskatchewan

Aug 31, 2021

Thousands of shorebirds stop every spring and fall along the shores of Chaplin Lake in southern Saskatchewan to nest and rest for the next leg of their migratory journey.

Chaplin Lake is also home to Saskatchewan Mining and Minerals Inc. (SMMI) Chaplin plant, which has been producing sodium sulphate for more than 70 years. The importance of our sodium sulphate production in enhancing the wetlands in the area and creating a welcoming environment for shoreline birds was the subject of a recent article in Industry West Magazine.

Rodney McCann, president and CEO of SMMI, was quoted in the article as saying: “Our production keeps the water levels maintained. Maintaining water levels allows the shoreline to be preserved, which is so important for nesting shorebirds. Without consistent water levels, in extreme wet seasons, there would be limited shoreline, which is critical for migratory birds. Also, in extreme dry seasons, there would be a low food source for birds, which includes brine shrimp and insects.”

Chaplin Lake is the second largest saline lake in Canada and the eastern shoreline is home to the Nature Conservancy of Canada’s (NCC’s) Mackie Ranch conservation project. This natural area is a distinctive part of Saskatchewan, but also an environmentally sensitive area that SMMI is dedicated to preserving through the work we do.

Controlling the brine depths results in a large area flooded with shallow depths of brine for an extended period of time. This is an excellent habitat for shorebirds, particularly for their feeding activities. Managing the brine depths also ensures that this habitat is available later in the summer when other surrounding lakes are dry.

Chaplin Lake is part of the Chaplin/Old Wives/Reed Lake complex designated as a Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network (WHSRN) site in 1997. These lakes provide feeding and resting habitat for over 100,000 shorebirds each year, a critical link as they travel between their breeding and wintering grounds.

Chaplin Lake also provides an important shorebird nesting habitat, including for significant numbers of the endangered piping plover. About 30 species of shorebirds – including sanderlings, stilt sandpipers, and semi-palmated sandpipers – use Chaplin Lake to nest or as a stopover site each summer.

SMMI is proud to work closely with government, non-government organizations and the local community to ensure that the unique environmental conditions at Chaplin Lake are protected — and even enhanced.