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British Columbia Mine Reclamation Symposium

The laboratory quality assurance component of environmental monitoring : a case study involving subaqueous tailings research Deverall, Rob; Maynard, Allan W.; Thomas, Katherine


Assessments concerning the environmental impact of mining projects are highly dependent on reliable low-level analyses of samples collected from the receiving environment. The analytical program must be designed to maximize the reliability of the data and also provide information concerning the reproducibility, accuracy, specificity, and sensitivity of test results. In Canada, the MEND (Mine Environment Neutral Drainage) Program has sponsored projects pertaining to comprehensive monitoring of subaqueous tailings disposal. Lake sediments, lake water, and interstitial water samples were collected and then analyzed for a host of parameters (metals, anions, physical tests, etc.). The analyses were carried out using state-of-the-art procedures and instruments. A comprehensive quality assurance-quality control (QA-QC) program was incorporated into the study with all QA-QC subsequently reported. The studies provide an ideal example of what is required, in terms of analytical approach, for projects that require extremely low detection levels and are subject to rigorous scrutiny by regulatory agencies, the scientific community, and the public. This paper presents the QA-QC approach taken for the subaqueous tailings disposal work by discussing method selection, determination of detection limits, use of reference materials, laboratory and field QC samples, and criteria for assessing QC results. Representative QC data are presented to demonstrate validation of methodology and to show that pre-determined criteria were met. The results on all blanks were below limits of detection, the results on reference materials met suppliers 95% acceptance criteria and replicate results agreed to within +15% of a calculated mean.

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