Mount Polley Mining Corporation is appealing a $9,000 administrative penalty issued by the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy regarding it water discharge plans. (Monica Lamb-Yorski file photo)

Mount Polley Mining Corporation is appealing a $9,000 administrative penalty issued by the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy regarding it water discharge plans. (Monica Lamb-Yorski file photo)

Mount Polley Mine Corporation appealing $9,000 non-compliance penalty from government

The Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy issued the penalty on Dec. 8, 2020

Mount Polley Mining Corporation (MPMC) is appealing a $9,000 non-compliance penalty under the province’s Environmental Management Act in regards to its water discharge plans.

The Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy issued the penalty on Dec. 8, 2020, a follow up to a warning notice issued to the company on Feb. 24, 2020.

Signed off by the ministry director, operations manager for compliance, Leslie Payette, the notice explained the reasons for the penalty.

They included failing to meet section 2.10 of the water discharge requiring MPMC to submit a detailed design for a pilot passive water treatment system, failure to commission a pilot scale biochemical reactor system (BCR) and bench scale system and failture to submit ‘as built’ drawings of the pilot and bench scale (BCR) systems between 2017 and 2019.

Authors of Biochemical Reactor System (BCR) at the Brule Mine: A Semi-Passive Approach to Operational and Post-Closure Selenium and Nitrate Reduction note the general concept behind BCR systems is based on the activity of naturally-occurring bacteria in the biological mixture, which operates to remove oxygen from the water. Once oxygen is removed, microbial communities begin to metabolize selenium, nitrates, and sulphate.

Mount Polley’s chief operating officer Don Parsons said the mine is actively treating its contact water through a water treatment plant on site.

“At the same time we are working with industry experts to research a number of passive treatment options for contact water,” he told the Tribune. “This is a condition in our effluent permit and our commitment to the community.”

Parsons noted MPMC does not believe it has breached the permit term and it is important the misunderstanding is addressed.

All parties, including the company and government, must work together for the best environmental outcome and this dispute about interpretation is unfortunate, he added.

“Unfortunately we are not able to comment further while the matter is in front of the Environmental Appeal Board,” he added.

The ministry ruling, however, noted the nature of the contravention remains ranked as major as the prolonged failure to submit plans, commission the pilot scale system and return to compliance undermines the basic integrity of the overarching regulatory regime and interfered with the Ministry’s capacity to regulate.

“The testing required under Section 2.10 of the Permit was to demonstrate to ministry staff that MPMC would be capable of treating mine site effluent once treatment through discharge to Quesnel Lake expires on December 31, 2022,” the notice stated.

In its appeal MPMC argued compliance with three requirements was impossible.

“A person cannot be found in breach of a legal requirement that cannot be complied with. The director unreasonably concluded that MPMC contravened those requirements and erred in law in doing so.”

In the summary of relevant facts, the ministry said the ministry gave MPMC warnings for being out of compliance in July and December 2018 and July 2019. The ministry amended the permit with updates in February 2020, requiring MPMC to submited a revised water management plan and an implementation schedule for approval by Dec. 1, 2020, outlining the water management and treatment options and most recent reclamation and closure plan for the site and water discharge plans from Dec. 31, 2022 onward.

On August 14, 2020, MPMC provided a written submission as the opportunity to be heard (OTBH). In the OTBH, MPMC submits that the permit requirements were unachievable and contrary to Ministry’s Best Achievable Technology (BAT) policy, and provided evidence to dispute the nature of the contravention and the actual of potential for adverse effect.

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