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MINE'S LONG-TERM WATER MANAGEMENT PLAN, TO ALLOW EFFLUENT DISCHARGE INTO QUESNEL LAKE UNTIL 2022
By Cori Marshall
The Mount Polley Mining Corporation (MPMC) has taken another step toward putting the 2014 Tailings Storage Facility breach in their past. On April 7, an independent statutory-decision maker from the British Columbia (B.C.) Ministry of Environment (MoE) approved the long-term water management plan submitted by MPMC in October of last year. The plan will cover the remainder of the mine's productive life, which is estimated last through 2022.
According to B.C. MoE memorandum MPMC applied and was approved "to discharge treated mine water to Quesnel Lake via a diffuser," which is already in existence. In addition, the changes to effluent Permit 11678 will include "an increase in the maximum discharge rate to Hazeltine Creek of 0.33 m3/s," this is temporary until the new pipeline connection to the diffuser is installed. Once the new pipe is laid the maximum discharge rate to the lake will "be 0.6 m3/s, up to a maximum annual volume of 10,000,000 m3/yr."
MiningWatch Canada, who recently saw a private prosecution in response to the 2014 disaster thrown out of B.C. Provincial Court, came out quite strongly against the plan.
The organization's first recommendation to the B.C. government was to "reject [the] permit application and require MPMC to propose alternative options." The group called for full treatment of the mine water and alternative discharge points. Further, MPMC should obtain consent from the surrounding communities, and "strengthen MPMC's financial securities to eliminate long-term public liability," after the site shuts down.
The Concerned Citizens of Quesnel Lake stated that they are "very angry" with the MoE's decision to approve the permit amendment. The volunteer citizens group underlined their point that "restoration and remediation of Quesnel Lake, Polley Lake, and Hazeltine Creek needs to be completed." According to the group the clean-up "should not be negotiable."
Quesnel Lake contains 41.8 km3 of water, and the "mean flushing rate is about ten years," according to the MoE memorandum. The site of the diffuser is in the West Basin, "over 200 metres from shore, and about 45 metres deep." This area of the lake has an "estimated flushing rate of about 90 days."
This plan is relying on the abundance of the resource to dilute the effluent discharged from the mine.
The plan only covers the discharge of mine water over the operating period of the next five years. The MoE suggests that MPMC is "developing further plans for permitting long-term site water management for the post closure phase of the mine." The plan in no way deals "with the ongoing effects and remediation from materials that escaped," from the 2014 breach.
We contacted Imperials Mines, but at the time of publishing, the company had not responded to our request for comment.
We will continue to bring you information regarding the Mount Polley Mine and remediation process as it continues to develop.