Metal Mining Effluent Regulations: 2016 status report

Executive summary

This status report presents a summary of the performance of Canadian metal mines in 2016 with respect to the prescribed limits and requirements of the Metal Mining Effluent Regulations (MMER). This is the 14th annual report since the publication of the Regulations. The report provides information on mining facilities subject to the Regulations, effluent data, compliance performance and water bodies designated as tailing impoundment areas.

The MMER came into force in 2002 under the Fisheries Act to regulate the deposit of mine effluent and mine waste into waters frequented by fish. The Regulations set out limits for certain deleterious substances and pH, prohibit the discharge of effluent that is acutely lethal to rainbow trout, and specify the requirements for carrying out effluent sampling, reporting and environmental effects monitoring.

In 2016, 137 metal mining facilities in Canada were subject to the Regulations. These facilities are located in all provinces and territories except Alberta and Prince Edward Island. Most facilities were located in Ontario and Quebec, which have 46 and 35 facilities respectively. It was determined that 48 mining facilities subject to the Regulations (35%) provided incomplete effluent monitoring information, including 8 mining facilities that did not provide any effluent monitoring reports in 2016. Of the remaining 40 facilities, the vast majority of reporting issues were attributed to one or more missing acute lethality and radium-226 test results. The compliance statistics presented in this report were compiled on the basis of the information provided in the annual report submissions and do not include unreported data.

Overall, 99.6% of data reported in 2016 were in compliance with the prescribed monthly mean limits for metals, cyanide, total suspended solids (TSS), and the pH limits, which is the same as in 2015. Most of the exceedances reported in 2016 were for TSS (58%), pH (23%) and radium-226 (12%). All of the deleterious substances and pH limits had a compliance rate of at least 99%, except for TSS, which had a compliance rate of 98%. Of the exceedances reported, most were from facilities in the precious metal mining subsector.

Overall, 95.7% of test data reported in 2016 showed mining facilities to be in compliance with the requirement that effluent not be acutely lethal to rainbow trout. This is a slight decline from the 2015 compliance rate of 96.3%. Additionally, 94.4% of Daphnia magna monitoring test results reported in 2016 showed a mortality rate of less than 50%, which is an improvement from the 2015 rate of 92.8%.

Schedule 2 of the Regulations lists water bodies designated as tailings impoundment areas. In 2016, 4 new water bodies were added to the 23 water bodies already listed on Schedule 2 of the Regulations. These 27 water bodies are associated with the activities of 15 mining facilities.

The MMER are enforced by Environment and Climate Change Canada in accordance with the Compliance and Enforcement Policy for the Habitat Protection and Pollution Prevention Provisions of the Fisheries Act.  As part of the quality review of this report, the data and comments in appendix D were reviewed by Enforcement Branch personel.

The electronic version of this status report is available through Environment and Climate Change Canada’s online publications catalogue at Government of Canada Publications website.

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