British Columbia Mine Reclamation Symposia

Mine reclamation guidelines for the Northwest Territories and Nunavut 2009

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MINE RECLAMATION GUIDELINES FOR THE NORTHWEST TERRITORIES AND NUNAVUT   Rebecca Chouinard, Pollution Control Specialist - Mining Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development   PO Box 1500 Yellowknife, NT, X1A 2R3 P.O. Box 100 Iqaluit, NU, X0A 0H0  ABSTRACT  The Mine Reclamation Guidelines for the Northwest Territories and Nunavut outline the expectations of the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development (DIAND) for closure and reclamation of mines in the Northwest Territories and Nunavut.  These guidelines address:  broad objectives for mine closure; design criteria; reclamation measures; temporary mine closure; special mines in northern Canada; considerations for northern mines; reclamation security; and, planning, monitoring, and reporting for mines.  Common closure activities and reclaim options for mining facilities are summarized in these guidelines for the various mine components.  These guidelines stress the importance of designing for closure; a concept requiring proponents to design, construct, and operate mines in order to meet the mine closure objectives.  A mine closure and reclamation plan should be developed before mining operations begin and updated regularly to ensure that the reclamation objectives are being met throughout the life of the mine.  The closure plan also provides a basis for the financial security required to carry out the necessary reclamation work.   BACKGROUND  These guidelines reflect the Government of Canada’s desire to ensure a strong resource management base in the Northwest Territories and Nunavut while reducing the impacts to the environment and human health.  Much of the infrastructure in the north is directly linked to the development of its mining industry.  The variety of mineral potential in the north has resulted in a consistent contribution to the territorial economy and has contributed to the overall economic growth of the Northwest Territories and Nunavut.  The Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development (DIAND) continues to look for opportunities to improve the way it carries out its resource management responsibilities.  These guidelines, used together with the Mine Site Reclamation Policy for the Northwest Territories and Nunavut (INAC, 2002), will add to the mineral resource management component of the Department’s Sustainable Development Strategy.  This paper summarizes the topics included in the Mine Site Reclamation Guidelines for the Northwest Territories and Nunavut.  These guidelines currently exist in draft format only.  Their formal release is expected to occur later this year.  To obtain copies of these guidelines, please contact:  Water Resources Division, DIAND Bellanca Building, 3rd floor PO Box 1500, 4914 – 50th Street Yellowknife, NT X1A 2R3  INTRODUCTION  Overview  The Mine Reclamation Guidelines for the Northwest Territories and Nunavut are intended to assist proponents of mining companies in understanding the expectations of DIAND for closure and reclamation of mines in the Northwest Territories and Nunavut.  These guidelines may also be of interest to land owners and other agencies that play a role in the decommissioning of mines and reclamation of lands and water affected by mining activities. They should be considered as one component of the overall resource management framework for mining activities in northern Canada.  These guidelines discuss the broad objectives for mine closure; design criteria; reclamation measures; temporary mine closure; special mines in northern Canada; considerations for northern mines; reclamation security; and planning, monitoring, and reporting for mines in the Northwest Territories and Nunavut.  The mine components addressed include:  open pit and underground mining, tailings containment, mill and effluent treatment, ore and waste rock storage, and water use and waste disposal associated with mining.  Advanced exploration activities and bulk sampling programs may also be subject to the objectives and principles presented in this document.  Approach and Objectives  Mining is considered a temporary use of the land.  At closure, the mine site and the land affected by the mining operations are to be reclaimed to achieve the following objectives:  1. Protect public health and safety 2. Prevent or mitigate environmental degradation caused by mining related activities 3. Ensure the return to stable land use that reflects its original use or an acceptable alternative that considers community input and values  It is convenient to separate mining facilities into components to design and plan reclamation work.  The general reclamation objectives should be addressed for each component of the mine. A site must have a specific end-use identified prior to closure to aid in determining appropriate reclamation activities and timelines.  Proponents must recognize that there may be several options for achieving the objectives and that evaluation of alternative reclamation methods should be presented.  The reclamation objectives must take the physical stability, chemical stability, and land use and aesthetics into consideration.  • Physical Stability Any mine component that would remain after mine closure must be constructed or modified at closure to be physically stable such that, in the event of a failure or with physical deterioration, it does not pose a hazard to public health and safety or to the environment.  The facility should continue to perform the function for which it was designed for at closure.  It should not erode, slump, or move from its intended location under natural extreme events or disruptive forces to which it may be subjected to after closure.  Post-closure monitoring and maintenance may be needed to ensure such stability. • Chemical Stability Any mine component, including waste that remains after mine closure, should be chemically stable.  Hazardous, mining-related chemicals should not be released into the environment. Water quality should not endanger public health or safety, or result in the inability to attain water quality objectives in the receiving environment. Soil and air quality can also be affected by the chemical stability of a mine component, and guidance on soil and air quality objectives can be attained from the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment (CCME). • Land Use and Aesthetics The selection of reclamation objectives at a project site should consider:  naturally occurring bio-physical conditions, characteristics of the surrounding landscape, local community values and culturally significant or unique attributes of the land, level and scale of environmental impact, land use prior to mine development, and expected post operational land use activity.  Post-Closure Activities  Post-closure activities at a mine site begin once a mine ceases operation indefinitely.  This post- mining phase should be of limited duration, typically not more than several years depending on the size and complexities of the mine site. Once the reclamation activities have been completed, on-site activity should be reduced to geotechnical and water monitoring in accordance with the water licence and land permits, with limited maintenance or repair activities required.  There are three design categories for post-closure mine scenarios: walk-away, passive care, and active care.  • Walk-Away A walk-away post-mine closure and reclamation plan requires neither on-site monitoring nor maintenance once the reclamation activities have concluded.  This is an ideal objective, and may be achieved for some portions of a mine site. This design category, however, is difficult to achieve for an entire mine site. • Passive Care A passive care post-mine closure and reclamation plan consists of occasional monitoring, coupled with infrequent maintenance or repairs, at the end of the primary reclamation activities.  The majority of mine sites require ongoing passive care, which can be an acceptable practice. • Active Care An active care post-mine closure and reclamation plan occurs when sustained monitoring of the remaining active facilities is required following the reclamation activities.  An active care situation most commonly results from improper reclamation planning.  An active care post- mine closure and reclamation plan is not acceptable for a new modern mine development. This option should be avoided wherever possible, however it may be the most practical option for some abandoned or operating mines, due to former mine practices and waste handling.  MINE CLOSURE  Design for Closure  Preparing an acceptable mine closure and reclamation plan prior to the development of a mine is referred to as designing for closure. This concept requires proponents to look well into the future and identify natural processes and forces that may act upon the mine components after mine closure.   The operator must design, operate, close, and reclaim the mine so that the risk of negative impacts on the environment, wildlife, and humans is minimized or eliminated.  Developing the Mine Closure and Reclamation Plan  The mine closure and reclamation plan should be approved before mine development begins. General advances in mine reclamation technologies may serve to refine the reclamation plan on a progressive basis. The mine closure and reclamation plan should be re-evaluated, updated, and submitted to regulatory agencies for approval annually or upon request from the regulatory authorities.  A model for developing the mine closure and reclamation plan for a new mine is illustrated in Figure 1.  Existing mines may need to consider additional steps, such as consideration for reducing existing liability by modifying the mine operation plan.  Figure 1.  Mine Closure and Reclamation Plan Development   HISTORICAL AND EXISTING PRE-PROJECT CONDITIONS   EXISTING OR PROPOSED MINE DEVELOPMENT loop b) and c)  consider an alternative form of development that will meet the objectives   CLOSURE AND RECLAMATION OBJECTIVES   CLOSURE AND RECLAMATION MEASURES loop a)  consider alternative reclamation measures that will meet the objectives   IMPACT ASSESSEMENT BASED ON                           loop a                 loop b   PROJECT DEVELOPMENT AND RECLAMATION   MONITORINING AND MAINTENANCE   COSTING AND SCHEDULING                                                                      loop c   FINANCIAL ASSURANCE   DESCRIPTION OF POST - CLOSURE ENVIRONMENT  DESIGN CRITERIA  The design criterion for physical, chemical, and water quality objectives in reclamation is site- specific.  The design criteria for physical structures that are used to mitigate potential chemical and biological concerns should be based on the associated environmental risk.  Guidance on the selection of reclamation design criteria based upon potential risk categories is presented in the guidelines.  Acceptable water and effluent quality criteria and sampling requirements are addressed in the Water Licence and Surveillance Network Program (SNP).  Monitoring programs are established on a site-specific basis and take into account local conditions.  It is important to consider that existing regulations may be amended, new regulations developed, or other statutes imposed with conditions relating to the waste deposited over the course of the mine operation.  The licensee is responsible for compliance with the current and updated requirements of applicable federal, territorial and/or municipal legislation.  RECLAMATION MEASURES  Descriptions and tables summarizing common closure activities and reclamation options for each of the mine components are included in the guidelines (the tables are prepared with reference to the Ontario Mine Closure Guidelines, NWT Water Board Guidelines, Mining Association of Canada Guidelines, and recent work by the Water Resources Division in the Northwest Territories).  Each table addresses the physical stability, chemical stability, and land use according to closure criteria, reclamation objectives, and reclamation measures.  The mine closure and reclamation plan should consider the best available technology that is suitable to the physiography and climate of the Northwest Territories and Nunavut.  TEMPORARY MINE CLOSURE  Plans for temporary mine closures will depend on the anticipated duration of the closure, the level of site development, the site closure conditions, previous reclamation efforts, outstanding reclamation, and hazards at the site.  For an indefinite closure period, any outstanding progressive reclamation should be completed. Care and Maintenance staff must be present at the site and sufficient in number and expertise.  Necessary equipment, supplies, and reagents must be left on site for maintenance and contingency.  SPECIAL MINES IN NORTHERN CANADA  There are unique mines that exist, or did exist, in the Northwest Territories and Nunavut.  For example, there are a few abandoned uranium mines (Rayrock, Contact Lake, Eldorado/Port Radium) in northern Canada, and some uranium deposits in Nunavut near Baker Lake (Kiggavik).  Coal mining was also present in the north at one time, namely at Ross River Yukon, and could potentially resurface in parts of western Northwest Territories and Nunavut.  Special reclamation activities may be needed at these mine sites and additional regulations or Acts may apply.  Direction and references to additional reports, guidelines, and Acts on the reclamation of Uranium and coal mines are given in the Mine Site Reclamation Guidelines for Northwest Territories and Nunavut.  All current and future mines not specifically addressed should adhere to the principles outlined in these guidelines.  CONSIDERATIONS FOR NORTHERN MINES  Reclamation objectives may be slightly different for northern sites compared with sites in temperate climates.  As previously described, a post-mine closure and reclamation plan that requires ongoing active care is not desirable and should be avoided wherever possible.  A passive care post-closure scenario may not be effective either because of high access costs, unacceptable risk of failure, or other limitations related to the climatic setting at the site. The goal for any northern mine should always be to achieve a walk-away reclamation scenario.  Design, construction, and schedules may all be affected by the remoteness and climate of some parts of the NWT and Nunavut.  These conditions directly affect the cost and methods of reclamation activities.  Special considerations for project design and reclamation in permafrost regions are often required.  Additional physical, chemical, and land use challenges relevant to northern sites are also discussed in the Mine Site Reclamation Guidelines for the Northwest Territories and Nunavut.  RECLAMATION SECURITY  The cost of closure and final reclamation of a mine is the responsibility of the mining company. Each new mine will proceed to development only if it can support the estimated full costs of reclamation.  Regulators have the authority to establish security deposits for reclamation of projects as indicated in two main pieces of legislation; The Northwest Territories Waters Act and Northwest Territories Waters Regulations; and The Mackenzie Valley Resource Management Act and Mackenzie Valley Land Use Regulations.  There will be an accrual of reclamation liability starting from the date of mine exploration except when offset by progressive reclamation.  Most mines should expect to have some post-closure liability associated with maintenance activities such as spillway management, geotechnical and geochemical monitoring, water sampling, and reporting.  The form of the security must be in accordance with the requirements of the Northwest Territories Waters Act and Regulations (1992) or the Nunavut Waters and Nunavut Surface Rights Tribunal Act and Regulations (2002) and the specific requirements of the land owners where applicable.  The relevant permitting/licensing board will establish the amount of security required, and the DIAND Minister will give the final approval.  The amount of security should be based upon a reliable and standard estimate of the cost of the anticipated reclamation work.  DIAND uses the RECLAIM model (Version 4.2) as a preferred tool for estimating reclamation liability.  RECLAIM is a spreadsheet developed for the Department to estimate third-party mine reclamation costs.  The model and guidelines for its use are available from the Water Resources Division offices.  The model is based, as much as possible, upon costs from other mine reclamation activities completed in the north.  Updates to the estimate of reclamation liability should be made in accordance with the Water Licence requirements or other permits, and with amendments to the mine plan and reclamation plan.  DIAND will assume that mine construction will proceed as proposed.  Any departures from the plan will trigger mechanisms for a review of the reclamation liability.  PLANNING, MONITORING AND REPORTING  It is standard practice and generally a legal requirement in North America for mines to develop a mine closure and reclamation plan for these primary purposes:  • To allow environmental assessment (EA) and licensing agencies to determine if potential impacts of the project are acceptable or can be mitigated, and to determine or evaluate the mitigation measures; • To identify acceptable end-of-mining conditions in terms of public health and safety, environmental protection, and land use; and, • To provide a basis for the financial security required ensuring that the necessary reclamation work is conducted.  To ensure mine development plans are being carried out as expected, ongoing sampling and testing of mine site components must be conducted throughout the mine life.  This applies particularly to the acid rock drainage and metal leaching characteristics of waste rock and tailings as well as soil and water quality and movement.  Appendices presenting the results of geochemical sampling and water quality sampling should be included in the mine closure and reclamation plans as the data becomes available.  Once the end of mining operations can be anticipated, the company must present a final mine closure and reclamation plan to regulatory agencies for approval.  The final mine closure and reclamation plan will describe a post-closure monitoring program; this may also include ongoing care and maintenance, for a period sufficient to demonstrate that the goals set out in the reclamation plan have been met.  Terms should be agreed upon with the approval of the final mine closure and reclamation plan.  REFERENCES  Indian and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC).  2002.  Mine Site Reclamation Policy for Nunavut. ISBN 0-662-32073-5.  Indian and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC).  2002.  Mine Site Reclamation Policy for the NWT. ISBN 0-662-32074-3  


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