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INDUSTRIAL UPDATE 2021: Gibraltar Mine protecting and managing water

General manager Ben Pierce describes the water discharge system
Tailing storage facility at Taseko’s Gibraltar Mine. (Gibraltar Mine photo)

The Gibraltar Mine accumulates roughly six million cubic meters of water every year from rainfall, snowmelt and groundwater.

This water has been accumulating since the 1980s when the mine installed a surface water collection system.

Most of this water is stored in the Tailings Storage Facility (TSF) which has been engineered and built for this purpose. There are several much smaller water management ponds on-site where water is collected and then pumped into the larger TSF.

A small percentage of our on-site water is recycled for use in the mill processing system, to help grind rock into fine sand and assist in separating copper from the rock. This water, along with the sand, is also stored in the TSF.

We have an entire team of environmental engineers and science professionals at the mine that monitor and manage all water on site with the various operating departments.

The water in the TSF is monitored constantly and tested regularly. It is clean and high-quality water, all of which comes from rain, snow and groundwater, and has accumulated and been stored for many years. The water stored in the TSF hosts a healthy and thriving rainbow trout population and has for years.

Read more: Tsilhqot’in National Government appeals Gibraltar Mines’ permit to discharge into Fraser River

This constantly accumulating water was not meant to be stored indefinitely but instead allowed to flow down into the Fraser River, as it was meant to do.

We have a provincial permit to discharge water to the Fraser River and have been doing so since 2009. The permit was issued only after a multi-year permitting process which began back in 2005 when the original application was made. This permit sets out strict conditions on the quality, quantity and timing of the water discharged to the Fraser River.

This discharge to the Fraser River has been monitored extensively as required by permit and federal regulations and there has been no negative effects on aquatic life, or on fish, or water quality in the Fraser River.

We have also participated in a salmon sampling program led by local First Nations which has occurred yearly since 2016. Results of the program to date have shown no issues and confirmed the salmon are safe for consumption.

Read more: Taseko’s Gibraltar Mine receives mine reclamation award

In November of 2015 we received temporary approval to increase the discharge by 50 per cent from 3.6 million m3/year to 5.4 million m3/year.

This higher discharge rate represents a tiny amount of water less than 1/100th of one percent of the flow volume down the Fraser River.

Extensive environmental monitoring was conducted as part of the temporary permit, with no environmental impact noted. In 2019, we were again permitted to discharge water to the Fraser River at the 5.4 million m3/year rate for a period of three years.

Environmental monitoring while discharging at the higher rate has again showed no environmental impact to the Fraser River.

Water management and environmental stewardship are important aspects of the mining cycle.

At Gibraltar we continue to look for new innovative ways to continually improve our environmental management system and remain committed to meeting and/or exceeding the requirements of our permits and applicable regulations to ensure mining at Gibraltar can continue to support the 700 employees and their families that call the Cariboo home.

Ben Pierce is the general manager of Taseko-Gibraltar Mine

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