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Metal Mining Effluent Regulations

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Overview of the Metal Mining
Effluent Regulations
June 27, 2012
Presented by:
Chris Doiron
Manager, Mining
Mining and Processing Division
• Provide an overview of the key provisions of the Metal
Mining Effluent Regulations (MMER) in order to inform
potential new stakeholders, such as the diamond and
coal mining sectors, of the existing requirements of the
regulations that are currently subject to a 10-year
Page 2
Section 36 of the Fisheries Act
• Section 36 of the Fisheries Act is intended to prevent pollution
– Subsection 36(3) prohibits the deposit of deleterious substances in
waters frequented by fish
– Section 36 also gives the authority to develop regulations to permit
discharges of certain concentrations of deleterious substances into
waters frequented by fish
– Deleterious substances are substances that could cause harm to fish,
fish habitat, and can include a broad range of substances (see Annex
for more details)
• EC administers section 36 and related provisions, including:
– regulatory development and program implementation
– compliance promotion and enforcement
• DFO retains overall responsibility for the Fisheries Act
Page 3
Overview of the Metal Mining Effluent
Regulations (MMER)
• The MMER:
– are regulations developed primarily under subsection 36(5) of
the Fisheries Act
– are designed to protect fish and fish habitat from effects in
receiving waters due to the release of effluent from metal mines
– apply to metal mines and milling facilities with an effluent flow
rate of 50 m3/day and which deposit deleterious substances as
defined in the MMER
– currently apply to about 110 metal mines and milling facilities
across Canada
• New and reopened metal mines or milling facilities become subject
to the Regulations once construction starts
• Regulations continue to apply until specified conditions are met to
become a recognized closed mine
Page 4
Overview of Key Provisions of the MMER
• MMER set standards for the quality of all effluent discharged:
– pH of effluent and concentrations of arsenic, copper, cyanide,
lead, nickel, zinc, radium-226 and suspended solids
– prohibit discharge of effluent which is acutely lethal to fish
• Effluent includes all seepage and surface drainage from a site
• MMER also require environmental effects monitoring (EEM) to
monitor the effects of effluent discharge on receiving waters:
– mines conduct studies on fish and other organisms in the lakes
or streams into which effluent is discharged
– purpose is to help evaluate the effectiveness of pollution
prevention and control technologies, practices and programs
within the mining sector
Page 5
Current Discharge Limits Specified in
Schedule 4 of the Regulations
Arsenic (mg/L)
Copper (mg/L)
Cyanide (mg/L)
Lead (mg/L)
Nickel (mg/L)
Zinc (mg/L)
Radium-226 (Bq/L)
TSS (mg/L)
%Non-acutely lethal
MMER Requirements
Monthly Composite
In range of 6.0 to 9.5
Page 6
Provisions for Development of Tailings
Impoundment Areas (TIAs)
• The MMER allow for the deposit of waste rock or effluent containing
any concentration of a deleterious substance into a TIA located in
fisheries waters.
This authorization is granted through listing of the area in Schedule
2 of the Regulations.
Listing of the area(s) in Schedule 2 can only occur after the
proposed project has been subjected to a federal environmental
assessment process.
A key element of the process is that the proponent undertake an
assessment of alternatives to demonstrate that the proposed
development is what makes the most environmental and socioeconomic sense.
Environment Canada has developed specific Guidelines for
undertaking such assessments.
Effluent form the TIA must meet the criteria that are specified in
Schedule 4 of the Regulations.
Page 7
Provisions Related to Dilution of Effluent
and Final Discharge Points
• The combination of effluent with water for the purpose of
diluting effluent is prohibited.
All effluent from the mine site must be deposited through
an identifiable final discharge point (FDP).
All FDPs must be identified by the owner or operator of a
mine, complete with plans, specifications, location, a
description of how it is designed and maintained, and
the name of the receiving water body.
This information must be provided for any FDPs that are
identified by an inspector during the course of a site visit,
and for any new FDP that the owner or operator wishes
to use in the future.
Page 8
Overview of the Key Monitoring
Requirements (cont’d)
• Owners or operators are required to monitor effluent quality and flow
not less than once per week.
Monitoring for cyanide is not required if that substance is not used
as a process reagent.
There are provisions to enable reduction in the frequency of
analysis for metals to once per quarter if results have been less than
10% of the specified monthly mean concentration in Schedule 4.
The frequency of analysis returns to weekly if the results of an
analysis show that the concentration has increased to something
greater than 10% of the specified monthly mean concentration.
Acute lethality testing must be conducted on a monthly basis
– standard 96-hour test using rainbow trout
– also required to conduct test using Daphnia magna, but effluent
not required to be non-acutely lethal to Daphnia
Page 9
Overview of the Key Monitoring
Requirements (cont’d)
• There is an opportunity to reduce the frequency of the acute lethality
testing to once per quarter if the effluent has been demonstrated to
be non-acutely lethal for 12 consecutive months.
The frequency of analysis must increase to twice per week if an
acutely lethal effluent is measured.
This frequency must be maintained until three non acutely results
are obtained, at which time monthly sampling and analysis can be
The results of all acute lethality tests must be recorded.
The owner or operator must also record the volume of effluent
deposited, and the monitoring system that is used must be accurate
to within 15% of the measured flow rate or volume.
The owner or operator must calculate and record the monthly mean
concentration and loading for each of the deleterious substances
that are listed on Schedule 4 of the Regulations.
Page 10
Overview of the Key Reporting
• The owner or operator must submit to the Authorization Officer (AO)
an effluent monitoring report for all tests and monitoring conducted
during each calendar quarter.
• Summary annual reports must also be submitted to the AO not later
than March 31 in each year.
• Reports on deposits out of the normal course of events must be
submitted to the AO within 30 days of the occurrence.
• This information is always submitted electronically through the
Regulatory Information Submission System (RISS).
Page 11
Overview of Key EEM Requirements
• Objective is to evaluate effects of effluent on aquatic environment,
specifically fish, fish habitat and the use of fisheries resources
Information from EEM used to assess adequacy of regulations and
ensure proper environmental management, conservation and
Program allows use of historic data and data from programs
required by other regulatory agencies
EEM requirements are divided into two key components:
– Effluent and water quality monitoring
– Biological monitoring
The detailed EEM requirements are specified in Schedule 5 of the
Page 12
EEM - Effluent and Water Quality
• Four times per year, mines are required to conduct effluent
characterization, sublethal toxicity testing of effluent, and water
quality monitoring
• Effluent characterization requires reporting of hardness, alkalinity,
electrical conductivity and temperature, and concentrations of
aluminum, cadmium, iron, mercury, molybdenum, selenium,
ammonia, and nitrate
• Water quality monitoring requires reporting of same parameters
required for effluent characterization, plus all parameters required
for compliance monitoring of effluent
• Sublethal toxicity testing conducted on a fish species, an
invertebrate species, a plant species and an algal species
Page 13
EEM - Biological Monitoring
• Mines are required to conduct biological monitoring studies to
assess effects on fish, fish habitat and the use of fisheries resources
• Effects on fish are assessed through comparison of adult fish
exposed to effluent with unexposed fish
• Effects on fish habitat are assessed through comparison of benthic
invertebrate communities from areas exposed and unexposed to
• Effects on the use of fisheries resources are assessed by
comparing mercury concentrations in fish tissue against fish health
consumption guidelines, and between fish from areas exposed and
unexposed to effluent
Page 14
EEM – Biological Monitoring, cont’d
• An effect is a statistically significant difference in measurements
taken between an exposure area and reference area for fish and
benthic invertebrates
Program is tiered: design of monitoring for a site determined, in part,
by results of previous monitoring
If effects are identified, subsequent EEM studies will be more
intensive to determine magnitude, extent and cause of effects
If there are no effects, then frequency of some monitoring activities
may be reduced
Once an effect has been identified and magnitude, extent and
possible causes known, follow up actions will be determined on a
site-specific basis
Page 15
Compliance and Enforcement
Compliance and Enforcement Policy for the Habitat Protection and
Pollution Prevention Provisions of the Fisheries Act (EC 2001)
• General principles for application of the habitat protection and
pollution prevention provisions of the Fisheries Act
• Policy explains the role of regulatory officials in promoting,
monitoring and enforcing the legislation
• National Policy for all who exercise regulatory authority, from
Ministers to enforcement personnel
Page 16
Environmental Code of Practice
for Metal Mines
• Code was developed to identify and promote recommended best
practices to facilitate and encourage continual improvement in
environmental performance of mining facilities throughout all phases
of the mine life cycle
• Code supports the Metal Mining Effluent Regulations (MMER) but
also covers a broad spectrum of environmental aspects that extend
well beyond MMER coverage
• Code is intended to be a resource for mine owners and operators,
regulatory authorities and the general public
• Many aspects of Code can be applied to non-metal mining
operations and they are routinely being used in this regard in
Environment Canada’s assessment of newly proposed mining
Page 17
Scope of Recommendations for
the Code of Practice
• Code presents over 130 recommendations regarding environmental
management tools and practices applicable that can be applied to
each phase of the mine life cycle
• Environmental aspects addressed in the Code recommendations
– Water management and treatment
– Waste rock and tailings characterization and management
– Chemicals management, including cyanide and ammonia
– Sewage and domestic wastes
– Air quality, particularly particulate matter releases
– Terrestrial habitat and wildlife concerns
– Reclamation, closure and long-term maintenance and
Page 18
Linkages with Legislation
• Code supports the fundamental principles of the Metal Mining
Effluent Regulations (MMER) and emphasizes the importance of life
cycle planning
• Code builds on other legislative requirements, such as the
Environmental Emergency Regulations under the Canadian
Environmental Protection Act (CEPA)
• Code recommendations are always considered in reviewing
environmental assessments under the Canadian Environmental
Assessment Act, and project proponents are always advised to
consider them in developing their environmental management
Page 19
Chris Doiron
Manager, Mining Section
Mining and Processing Division
Further information on Environment Canada’s mining initiatives and
publications can be obtained from the following web site:
Page 20
ANNEX – Deleterious Substances
• To determine if a substance, such as waste rock, is deleterious, mining
proponents are to use established reference and guidance methods such
– Prediction Manual for Drainage Chemistry from Sulphidic Geologic
– Global Acid Rock Drainage (GARD) Guide; and
– Draft Guidelines and Recommended Methods for Prediction of Metal
Leaching and Acid Rock Drainage.
These documents identify key characteristics of the substance in question
to help Environment Canada determine whether or not the substance
should be considered deleterious.
Environment Canada uses the benchmark concentrations in the CCME’s
Canadian Water Quality Guidelines for the Protection of Freshwater Aquatic
Life (CWQGs) in determining if materials such as waste rock may be a
source of releases of deleterious substances.
Environment Canada would recommend that industry representatives
review the Guidelines for the Assessment of Alternatives for Mine Waste
Disposal, which are available from the web address noted in previous slide.
Page 21
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