Metal Mining Investigation of Cause Workshop: chapter 4

Background of the Metal Mining EEM Program

The development of the EEM program for the metal mining sector began in 1993 with the Assessment of the Aquatic Effects of Mining in Canada (AQUAMIN), which evaluated the effectiveness of the 1977 MMLER. The Assessment of the Aquatic Effects of Mining in Canada Final Report, released in 1996, summarized the results of the assessment, and presented recommendations for amendments to the MMLER and the design of an EEM program for metal mining. A multi-stakeholder consultation process (led by Environment Canada) then took place between 1997 and 1999 to develop the metal mining EEM program requirements and detailed guidance. In parallel (1995-1999), the AETE, led by Natural Resources Canada, with funding provided from the Government of Canada and the Mining Association of Canada, evaluated the environmental monitoring technologies and methodologies available to cost-effectively assess and characterise environmental impacts of mine effluents on the receiving aquatic environment. The consultation on the EEM program culminated in 1999 with a consensus agreement on proposed EEM requirements, and the completion of a guidance document. The Metal Mining Effluent Regulations (MMER) were promulgated in June, 2002 under the authority of the Fisheries Act.

Under the MMER, metal mines are required to undertake an EEM study to determine effects, if any, on fish, fish habitat and fisheries resources. EEM studies consist of biological monitoring as well as effluent characterization and water quality monitoring studies. The progression of the program follows a tiered monitoring approach, where the monitoring requirements of each phase (i.e. each round of monitoring within a defined regulatory time period) is dependent upon results of the previous monitoring phase. Once effects are confirmed in two studies (i.e. periodic monitoring), and the results of the focussed biological monitoring study indicate the magnitude and geographic extent of an effect on the fish population, on fish tissue, or on the benthic invertebrate community, mines are required to investigate the cause of the effects as per Subsection 19(2) of Schedule 5 of the MMER. Investigation of Cause monitoring studies attempt to determine the specific causes of the effects under investigation, including what components of the effluent are responsible for the effects. Once the cause of the effect is known, the mine will conduct periodic monitoring (i.e. surveillance) as per Subsection 22 (1) of Schedule 5 of the MMER. Although not required by the regulation, mines are also encouraged to study and implement possible corrective actions for the cause of effects.

There are currently (winter 2009) several mines in the IOC phase and additional mines are expected to conduct IOC studies in the near future. A Metal Mining EEM Technical Guidance Document was developed to assist industry and consultants in conducting EEM studies. Experience gained through program implementation (i.e. completing the EEM field studies and analyzing data) and multi-stakeholder consultation results in continuous improvements to the program. As well, external research initiatives conducted to respond to monitoring issues contribute to the development of new EEM methods. The outcomes of the Metal Mining IOC Workshop will be used to update guidance on Investigation of Cause in the Metal Mining EEM Technical Guidance Document.

Several industry challenges were introduced for later discussion.

Compiled by Environment Canada using material presented by Robert Prairie (Xstrata Zinc Canada)

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