What Are the Metal Mining Effluent Regulations?

In Dust Control, Mine & Quarry, Regulations by Jim Silva

Canada’s Metal Mining Effluent Regulations keep mining sites secure and liquid waste contained.

Many of the industrial processes involved in metal mining produce liquid waste known as effluent that, if not properly regulated, can leach into local streams and groundwater. Canada’s Metal Mining Effluent Regulations ensure that mine operators keep their worksites safe and compliant.

Proper Disposal Practices

The MMER defines effluent as any liquid waste containing a “deleterious substance,” which includes arsenic, copper, cyanide, lead, nickel, zinc, and radium. As Environment Canada explains, metals that are naturally present in the rock at mining and ore processing sites can leach into effluent, or effluent can become contaminated with chemicals employed in mining activities like ore processing, drilling, and blasting. Effluent can also originate from tailings and waste rock produced during routine mine operations.

Given all of these possible sources of contamination, it’s imperative that mine operators are diligent about proper monitoring and disposal of effluent waste. In preparation for disposal, these deleterious substances must be kept below a particular concentration. Additionally, the pH of the effluent needs to be between 6.0 and 9.5, and the amount of total suspended solids also needs to be kept below a certain concentration.

The Importance of Monitoring

Diligent monitoring is a key component of the MMER, and the owners or operators of mines are directly responsible for both tracking and routinely reporting the results to the appropriate authorization officers. Related duties include equipment monitoring, weekly pH and deleterious substance testing at final discharge points, and monthly reports on the total volume of effluent deposited and the mean concentrations of deleterious substances. The regulations also require routine effluent and water quality monitoring, as well as biological monitoring to assess the impact of effluent on fish and invertebrate communities.

There are many concrete steps that can be taken to ensure compliance with these stringent regulations. Potential water management measures include: diverting natural streams and runoff channels away from the mining site to avoid contamination, limiting the amount of metal leaching and acidic drainage from waste rock and tailings, and planning and constructing wastewater treatment systems. MMER also recommends having emergency plans in place to address unplanned spillage of fuel or other hazardous materials, mine tailings, and untreated wastewater.

Dealing with Other Mining Byproducts

Apart from effluent waste, dust is another mining byproduct that must be addressed and controlled at the source. Midwest Industrial Supply, Inc. simplifies dust control at mining sites with its arsenal of proven material handling solutions. Midwest’s products eliminate PM10 and PM2.5 emissions and prevent combustible dust from becoming airborne, ensuring a safe and compliant worksite. Midwest’s Dust-Buster® Foam Agents are biodegradable, non-hazardous products that suppress dust during loading, unloading, belt conveying and transferring, crushing, and other dust-prone mining processes. Midwest’s products also help manage emissions from mine tailings.

With so many processes to monitor on-site, Midwest ensures that mine owners and operators can handle dust easily, cost-effectively, and in compliance with environmental regulations.

Jim is Midwest’s Business Unit Manager for Global Mining. He is experienced in operations management, asset management, and business improvement.