British Columbia Mine Reclamation Symposium

Site-specific water quality objectives for mine environmental management Bright, Doug; Bryant, Debbie; Eickhoff, Curtis


Few environmental issues are of greater importance for the planning and approvals of new mines, operational management, and closure/remediation planning than the often complex hydrogeochemical interactions between surface waters that support aquatic life and mine wastes or recently disturbed areas. There is a strong reliance for permitting and approvals within British Columbia (BC) and other Canadian jurisdictions on generic provincial and national water quality guidelines to interpret aquatic ecological risk potential and protect freshwater life. The mining sector supports greater use of site-specific, riskbased water quality benchmarks, which necessarily require a more direct scientific understanding of aquatic ecological risks in watersheds of interest; however, the adoption of site-specific water quality objective (SSWQO) approaches has been limited. We discuss the methods used to develop generic water quality guidelines, including differences between Canadian (CCME) and BC water quality guideline derivation protocols. The relationship between generic guidelines and SSWQOs are discussed, along with the various practical approaches for development of SSWQOs based on toxicity data such as the water effects ratio (WER) method. Finally, we discuss the factors that may undermine the more widespread adoption of SSWQOs, and of the associated support for science-based decisions for environmental management in the mining sector.

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