Mount Polley Mine updates community

Quesnel Lake continues to meet drinking water quality guidelines, said Jerry Vandenberg, environmental chemist from Golder Associates.

Mount Polley Mine representatives were on hand in the Gilbraltar Room Wednesday evening to share information regarding its current operations, such as water management, with about 50 area residents and community leaders.

Discussions ranged from options for tailings storage, including the resurrection of the original tailings impoundment facility which breached in 2014,  to long-term water management plans as the company eyes a full restart by some time in 2016. The meeting was the second of two updates given by the company this week, the other held in Likely Monday evening.

Jerry Vandenberg, environmental chemist from Golder Associates who is working with Mount Polley Mine’s water discharge plan said Quesnel Lake continues to meet drinking water quality guidelines.

“All tailings and water collected at the mine is sent to the Springer Pit,” Vandenberg said, adding it is important to know that no tailings will be discharged into the environment.

Water is monitored at the Springer Pit, before and after the treatment plant, in Hazeltine Creek and at the 100 metre dilution zone in Quesnel Lake, he said.

Hubert Bunce with the Ministry of Environment said the water guidelines are developed with the receiving environment in mind.

The  mine must submit a plan for long term water management by June 2016 and is presently considering various options, Vandenberg said.

Some of the options include implementing a passive or semi-passive treatment system, such as using wetlands.

The water treatment plant may or may not remain in place, he noted, but sources would be preferentially treated and diverted back into natural watersheds such as Bootjack Lake rather than discharging it all through one pipeline.

“There isn’t any definite plan in place yet,” he said.

The mine is also proposing to use its original tailings storage facility.

“We believe the existing storage facility is the best site,” said Andy Haynes, senior engineer with Golder Associates.

Modifcations made to the existing tailings storage since the breach mean it will have a smaller pond holding a maximum of 1.5 million cubic metres of water, instead of 10 million cubic metres, wide beaches, drainage of the tailings and a flattened embankment that is less steep than the original design.

Mount Polley has also appointed an Independent Peer Review Panel comprised of John Brodie, Nigel Skermer and Rod Smith.

Haynes said the panel has met twice and will meet a third time on Dec. 21, 2015.

“Their mandate is to confirm that the design and operation of the tailings facility is consistent with industry best practices,” Haynes said.

Mount Polley Mine project engineer Luke Moger said when the mine is looking at long-term operations it has a four to five year plan in mind, but is keeping open to the fact the mine could operate for another 10 years.