British Columbia Mine Reclamation Symposia

Water quality and its control in mining areas Howie, Hank 1980

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Proceedings of the 4th Annual British Columbia Mine Reclamation Symposium in Vernon, BC, 1980. The Technical and Research Committee on Reclamation WATER QUALITY AND ITS CONTROL IN MINING AREAS by H. Howie Waste Management Branch Ministry of Environment       115 Proceedings of the 4th Annual British Columbia Mine Reclamation Symposium in Vernon, BC, 1980. The Technical and Research Committee on Reclamation WATER QUALITY AND ITS CONTROL IN MINING AREAS Normally, mining operations will cause some deterioration to the quality of the associated surface water and groundwater. However, with good mining practices, including careful control of mining discharges and proper reclamation, the resulting water quality can usually be made acceptable for discharge into the receiving environment. Control of water quality is the responsibility of the Pollution Control Section of the Waste Management Branch and the Regional Operations Division, acting under the jurisdiction of the Pollution Control Act and Regula-tions.  This control is accomplished with Pollution Control effluent Permits which authorize effluent discharges of a specified quantity and quality from mining operations, and which require regular monitoring to assure that such quality is being maintained. All effluent discharges from mining operations not authorized by Pollution Control Permits are illegal. To guide the Director of Pollution Control in his assessment of ef-fluent discharges from mining operations and in his granting of effluent Permits to authorize such discharges, the Pollution Control Board has issued the Pollution Control Objectives for the Mining, Smelting, and Related Industries of British Columbia. These Objectives are based on earlier (1973) Objectives which were reviewed and amended in 1979 to include experience gained with the earlier Objectives, and input from public meetings held in six centres around the province, and a public inquiry held in Victoria in 1978. (I have several copies of the amended Objectives on hand should anyone wish a copy, and if the limited supply is insufficient, I will take your name and address and send you a copy.) I would now like to refer to Table IV and Table V of these amended Objectives which particularly relate to water quality. Table IV (Slide No. 1) outlines the receiving water control objectives which would 117 Proceedings of the 4th Annual British Columbia Mine Reclamation Symposium in Vernon, BC, 1980. The Technical and Research Committee on Reclamation Slide No. I/Table IV B. DISCHARGES TO WATER  RECEIVING WATER CONTROL OBJECTIVES (1)      Parameter                     Level _________  Dissolved oxygen Not less than 90% of the seasonal natural value Temperature To be within 10C of the natural level Turbidity                          Not more than 5 JTU above the natural  value Floatable solids                   None pH No ChangeToxicity (96 hr static bioassay)  Below detectable limit Colour No change Aesthetics No decrease Alkalinity (2) Not less than 20% natural value Chloride Not more than 25 mg/L Fecal coliforms (3) Not to exceed Ministry of Health standards (1) Applicable outside the initial dilution zone. (2) Not applicable to marine discharge. (3) Applicable only when sanitary discharge is mixed with effluent.  118 Proceedings of the 4th Annual British Columbia Mine Reclamation Symposium in Vernon, BC, 1980. The Technical and Research Committee on Reclamation normally apply to the neighboring stream, river, lake, or ocean and which, in turn, would normally be monitored in a manner that would determine the effect of the mining operations on this receiving en-vironment. This monitoring would be one of the requirements of the effluent Permit, and normally would include regular monitoring of the neighboring stream(s) upstream and downstream of the mining operations, and the periodic reporting of such monitoring. The details of the required monitoring are site specific and are determined in the assess-ment process. Examples will be discussed later in this presentation. Table V (Slide No. 2) outlines the objectives for the discharge of final effluents to marine and fresh waters. These objectives apply to the discharge of treated mine effluents to receiving waters, such as the effluent discharges from tailings ponds, settling ponds, or other treatment works to neighboring streams, etc., but which are not "closed-circuit", that is, totally recycled to operations. Each final effluent discharged from a mine-mill complex or a mine-cleaning plant complex is authorized by Permit, usually as one appendix of a com-prehensive effluent Permit for the entire complex. One requirement of this effluent Permit is normally the regular monitoring of the significant parameters of each separate discharge and the periodic reporting of such monitoring, some or all of which is transferred to the Government computer bank. At intervals, these data are retrieved and statistically analyzed and serve as part of a Permit review process which results in an amended Permit and which, in turn, may require changes to the pollution control treatment, Permit monitor-ing, etc. I would like to mention that Table V Objectives give a range of values for each parameter, whereas the earlier (1973) Objectives presented three levels for each parameter. The philosophy behind the earlier Objectives was to recognize existing operations, many of which required upgrading to move from Level C, through Level B, to the desirable Level A. The philosophy behind the present Objectives is to present a 119 Proceedings of the 4th Annual British Columbia Mine Reclamation Symposium in Vernon, BC, 1980. The Technical and Research Committee on Reclamation generally acceptable range for each parameter, but to allow the choice of each parameter value to be site specific based on the assimilative capacity of the environment and other considerations. However, a modified Table V, which includes "Old Level A" (Slide No. 3) shows that the "Old Level A" is usually similar to the low end of the "new range". I would now like to briefly review examples of several different types of mining operations in British Columbia, and indicate their methods of effluent control and their required monitoring programs. 1. Western Mines Ltd, is an example of a base metal underground mine and concentrator with discharge of tailings slurry at depth to a lake, and with collection and treatment of minewater and surface runoff by settling ponds. The regular monitoring required by Permit is as follows: - the tailings slurry is monitored for flow, pH, suspended solids, dissolved sulphate, total cyanide, residual chlorine, and both total and dissolved metals (Cu, Pb, Zn); - the receiving water (Buttle Lake) is biologically monitored and fish tissue is analyzed for metals; - the settling  ponds  supernatants  and nearby  streams are monitored for pH, suspended solids, dissolved sulphate, total cyanide and total mercury, and dissolved metals (Cu, Pb, Zn, As, Cd). 2.  Utah Mines Ltd, is an example of a base metal open pit mine and concentrator with discharge of tailings slurry at depth to the ocean, and with collection and treatment of minewater. The regular monitoring required by Permit is as follows: - the tailings slurry is monitored for flow, pH, suspended solids, temperature, total cyanide and total mercury, dissolved metals 120 Proceedings of the 4th Annual British Columbia Mine Reclamation Symposium in Vernon, BC, 1980. The Technical and Research Committee on Reclamation Slide No. 2/Table V OBJECTIVES FOR THE DISCHARGE OF FINAL EFFLUENTS TO MARINE ANU FRESH WATERS Parameter_____________________________ ___Range ______ (mg/L dissolved in effluent unless otherwise stated) (5) Total suspended solids (1) (2) 25 75 Total dissolved solids 2,500 5,000 Toxicity (96 hr LC 50 static bioassay) (3) 100% 80% pH (pH Units) 6.5-8.5 6.5-10 Radioactivity:  (6) Gross Alpha pCi/L 10 100 Radiun£2° pCi/L (dissolved in effluent passing through a 3 ym filter) less than 10 Specific elements and compounds: Aluminum (Al) 0.5 1.0 Ammonia (as N) 1.0 10.0 Antimony (Sb) 0.25 1.0 Arsenic (as trivalent As) 0.05 0.25 Arsenic (total dissolved) 0.10 1.0 Cadmium (Cd) 0.01 0.1 Chromium (Cr) 0.05 0.3 Cobalt (Co) 0.5 1.0 Copper (Cu) 0.05 0.3 Cyanide (as CN) 0.1 0.5 Fluoride (F) 2.5 10.0 Iron (Fe) 0.3 1.0 Lead (Pb) 0.05 0.2 Manganese (Mn) 0.1 1.0 Mercury (Total) (Hg) (4) Nil 0.005 Molybdenum (Mo) 0,5 5.0 Nickel (Mi) 0.2 1.0 Nitrite/Nitrate (as N) 10.0 25.0 Phosphate (Total P biologically available in effluent) 2.0 10.0 Selenium (Se) 0.05 0.5 Silver (Ag) 0.05 0.5 Uranyl (UO2) 2.0 5.0 Zinc (Zn) 0.2 1.0 Oil and Grease (Total) 10.0 15.0 (1) Not applicable to approved direct discharge of tailings solids. (2) Variances may be allowed during periods of excess runoff. (3) Bioassay on salmonid species. (4) Natural background concentration will be assessed. (5) Analysis for Total Elements in tailings may be required prior to and during operations and the Director wouldgive consideration to this information when issuing a permit. (6) To apply to operations where the objective is not the mining of radioactive ores. 121 Proceedings of the 4th Annual British Columbia Mine Reclamation Symposium in Vernon, BC, 1980. The Technical and Research Committee on Reclamation Slide No. 3/Table V OBJECTIVES FOR THE DISCHARGE OF FINAL EFFLUENTS  TO MARINE AND FRESH WATERS  “Old” Parameter___________________________    _______Range _______Level A (mg/L dissolved in effluent unless otherwise stated)   (5) Total   suspended solids  (1)   (2) 25 75            50 Total  dissolved sol-ids 2,500 5,000    <2,500 Toxicity  (96 hr LC 50 static bioassay)(3)                                           100%         80%        100% pH  (pH Units) 6.5-8.5 6.5-10    6.5-8.5 Radioactivity:     (6) Gross Alpha pCi/L                                                                           10            100            - Radium225 pCi/L (dissolved in effluent passing through a 3 pro filter)                  less than 10  - Specific elements and compounds: Aluminum (Al) 0.5 1.0 0.5 Ammonia  (as N) 1.0 10.0 0.5 Antimony  (Sb) 0.25 1.0 0.25 Arsenic  (as trivalent As) 0.05 0.25           Arsenic  (total  dissolved) 0.10 1.0 0.05 Cadmium (Cd) 0.01 0.1 0.005 Chromium (Cr) 0.05 0.3 0.05 Cobalt (Co) 0.5 1.0 0.10 Copper (Cu) 0.05 0.3 0.05 Cyanide (as CN) 0.1 0.5 0.10 Fluoride (F) 2.5 10.0 2.50 Iron (Fe) 0.3 1.0 0.30 Lead  (Pb) 0.05 0.2 0.05 Manganese  (Mn) 0.1 1.0 0.05 Mercury (Total)   (Hg)   (4) Nil 0.005 0.001 Molybdenum (Mo) 0.5 5.0 0.5 Nickel   (Ni) 0.2 1.0 0.3 Nitrite/Nitrate (as N) 10.0 25.0 10.0 Phosphate  (Total  P biologically available in effluent) 2.0 10.0 2.0 Selenium (Se) 0.05 0.5 0.05 Silver (Ag) 0.05 0.5 0.10 Uranyl   (UO2) 2.0 5.0 2.0 Zinc  (Zn) 0.2 1.0 0.5 Oil  and Grease  (Total) 10.0 15.0 15.0 (1) Not applicable to approved direct discharge of tailings  solids. (2) Variances may be allowed during periods of excess runoff. (3) Bioassay on salmonid species. (4) Natural  background concentration will  be assessed. (5) Analysis for Total  Elements in tailings may be required prior to and during operations and the Director would give consideration to this information when issuing a permit. (6) To apply to operations where the objective is not the mining of radioactive ores. 122 Proceedings of the 4th Annual British Columbia Mine Reclamation Symposium in Vernon, BC, 1980. The Technical and Research Committee on Reclamation (Cu, Mo, Cd, Cr, Co, Fe, Pb, Mn, Ni, Zn and As) and is also monitored by bioassay tests; - the receiving marine environment is monitored comprehensively for bottom sediment distribution, suspended sediment distribu- tion, and water monitoring for pH, temperature, dissolved oxygen, turbidity, suspended solids, alkalinity, salinity, and dissolved metals (Cu, Mo, Mn, As and Hg); - the receiving marine environment is monitored comprehensively with both plant and animal biological monitoring required; - the surface runoff water (including pit water) is comprehensive ly monitored for pH, temperature, suspended solids, dissolved solids, turbidity, alkalinity, colour, hardness, dissolved oxygen, sulphates, nitrates, and dissolved and total metals (Fe, Cd, Cu, Co, Cr, Mo, Pb, Zn, Ni and Mn). 3. Cominco Sullivan Mine is an example of a base metal underground mine and concentrator with discharge of tailings slurry to tailings ponds, and with collection and treatment of the overflow from the tailings ponds, minewater, and surface runoff before discharging the treated effluent to a stream. The regular monitoring required by Permit is as follows: - the wastewater treatment plant discharge is monitored for flow, pH, suspended solids, turbidity, total phosphate, ammonia (N), dissolved fluoride, oil and grease, and both total and dissolved metals (Fe, Pb, Zn, As) and total Cu, Cd, Mn, and CN; - the receiving water (St. Marys River) is monitored chemically and biologically both upstream and downstream of the treatment plant. 123 Proceedings of the 4th Annual British Columbia Mine Reclamation Symposium in Vernon, BC, 1980. The Technical and Research Committee on Reclamation 4. Gibraltar Mines Ltd, is an example of a base metal open pit mine and concentrator with discharge of tailings slurry to a tailings pond, with recycle of pond supernatant to operations, and with collection and treatment of seepage and surface runoff.  The regular monitoring required by Permit is as follows: - the flows of tailings slurry, of tailings pond supernatant, of seepage pond supernatant recycled and discharged to Cuisson Creek, and of Cuisson Creek are measured; - the seepage pond supernatant and the receiving water (Cuisson Creek) are monitored for pH, suspended solids, dissolved metals (Cu, Mo, Fe), $04 , and total CN. A bioassay is required on the supernatant prior to its discharge to Cuisson Creek. 5. Fording Coal Ltd, is an example of an open pit coal mine and cleaning plant with discharge of tailings slurry to a tailings pond, with recycle of pond supernatant to operations, and with collection and treatment of contaminated surface runoff including pit water.  The regular monitoring required by Permit is as follows: - the tailings slurry and tailings pond supernatant are monitored for flow, pH, suspended solids, and total solids; - the decants from the surface runoff settling ponds and pitwater are monitored for flow, pH, suspended solids, total solids, and oil and grease; - the receiving water (Fording River) is monitored upstream and downstream for pH, suspended solids, total solids, 864" , acidity, alkalinity, turbidity, organic carbon, oil and grease, nitrites/nitrates, and dissolved Fe and Mn. 124 Proceedings of the 4th Annual British Columbia Mine Reclamation Symposium in Vernon, BC, 1980. The Technical and Research Committee on Reclamation A comparison of monitoring in the preceding examples shows that the recieving effluent environment around base metal mines is normally monitored for pH, suspended solids, dissolved metals (normally present in the ore), and total CN (when used); when the tailings slurry is dis-charged at depth to a lake or ocean more extensive metal monitoring and biota monitoring are required. The receiving effluent environment around coal mines is normally monitored for pH, suspended solids, nitrates, and certain other parameters (which normally need to be monitored for a short time and then discontinued). In summary, the required water monitoring in the receiving environment around B.C. mines is normally less when tailings supernatant is totally recycled to operations or when tailings supernatant, surface runoff, etc. is treated. In conclusion, I would like to mention two items of interest which are ongoing at the present time. The first item is a cooperative industry-government study on the decomposition products of ANFO explosives, which I believe will complement similar studies being carried out separately by some of the mining companies in British Columbia. The industry-government study particularly relates to NH3, nitrites, and nitrates and is being done by Fording Coal Ltd., the Water Investigations Branch, the Waste Management Branch, and the Regional Operations Division (the latter three being in the Ministry of Environ-ment) and is being carried out at the Fording Coal Minesite. Interim results would indicate that fairly significant amounts of nitrates appear to be produced and are to be found in certain runoff streams. I would like to advise that the Water Investigations Branch intends to expand this study to include a review of existing water quality information around mining areas and to determine the amount of explosives that B.C. Mining Companies used in 1979. The second item that I wish to mention is the ongoing preparation of "Guidelines for the Design and Operation of Settling Ponds Used in Mining Areas" which should be useful for both operating and developing 125 Proceedings of the 4th Annual British Columbia Mine Reclamation Symposium in Vernon, BC, 1980. The Technical and Research Committee on Reclamation mines in controlling the level of suspended solids in the surface run-off streams. I have prepared the first draft guidelines, have cir-culated them to various Agencies, Consultants, etc., and am now starting to prepare the final Guidelines for the Director's considera-tion and approval. I hope that they will be published in the reasonably near future.  126 Proceedings of the 4th Annual British Columbia Mine Reclamation Symposium in Vernon, BC, 1980. The Technical and Research Committee on Reclamation DISCUSSION RELATED TO H. HOWIE'S PAPER C. Guarnaschelli - Hardy Associates Ltd.: I think you mentioned the assimilative capacity of your system. I'm thinking of your field techniques that are represented by a range of values based on assimilative capacity. I have two questions on that: 1) Because I've been involved in past years in the study of assimilative capacity, have you defined any terms like "oxygen volume", "BOD", and things like that; and 2) if I as a consultant have my company ask me to define "assimilative capacity system", would your de-partment in the provincial government be able to assess my presentation, within reason, on a site-specific basis? Answer: I think the answers to your questions are "yes", particularly so with respect to your second question. Yes, we would, and we do do such things. And that is normal now. It's now a site-specific and assessment type business. 127 

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