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Overview of the Metal Mining Effluent Regulations. June 27, 2012 Presented by: Chris Doiron Manager, Mining Mining and Processing Division. Purpose.

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Overview of the metal mining effluent regulations

Overview of the Metal Mining Effluent Regulations

June 27, 2012Presented by: Chris DoironManager, MiningMining and Processing Division


  • Provide an overview of the key provisions of the Metal Mining Effluent Regulations (MMER) in order to inform potential new stakeholders, such as the diamond and coal mining sectors, of the existing requirements of the regulations that are currently subject to a 10-year review.

Section 36 of the fisheries act
Section 36 of the Fisheries Act

  • Section 36 of the Fisheries Act is intended to prevent pollution

    • Subsection 36(3) prohibits the deposit of deleterious substances in waters frequented by fish

    • Section 36 also gives the authority to develop regulations to permit discharges of certain concentrations of deleterious substances into waters frequented by fish

    • Deleterious substances are substances that could cause harm to fish, fish habitat, and can include a broad range of substances (see Annex for more details)

  • EC administers section 36 and related provisions, including:

    • regulatory development and program implementation

    • compliance promotion and enforcement

  • DFO retains overall responsibility for the Fisheries Act

Overview of the metal mining effluent regulations mmer
Overview of the Metal Mining Effluent Regulations (MMER)

  • The MMER:

    • are regulations developed primarily under subsection 36(5) of the Fisheries Act

    • are designed to protect fish and fish habitat from effects in receiving waters due to the release of effluent from metal mines

    • apply to metal mines and milling facilities with an effluent flow rate of 50 m3/day and which deposit deleterious substances as defined in the MMER

    • currently apply to about 110 metal mines and milling facilities across Canada

  • New and reopened metal mines or milling facilities become subject to the Regulations once construction starts

  • Regulations continue to apply until specified conditions are met to become a recognized closed mine

Overview of key provisions of the mmer
Overview of Key Provisions of the MMER

  • MMER set standards for the quality of all effluent discharged:

    • pH of effluent and concentrations of arsenic, copper, cyanide, lead, nickel, zinc, radium-226 and suspended solids

    • prohibit discharge of effluent which is acutely lethal to fish

  • Effluent includes all seepage and surface drainage from a site

  • MMER also require environmental effects monitoring (EEM) to monitor the effects of effluent discharge on receiving waters:

    • mines conduct studies on fish and other organisms in the lakes or streams into which effluent is discharged

    • purpose is to help evaluate the effectiveness of pollution prevention and control technologies, practices and programs within the mining sector

Provisions for development of tailings impoundment areas tias
Provisions for Development of Tailings Impoundment Areas (TIAs)

  • The MMER allow for the deposit of waste rock or effluent containing any concentration of a deleterious substance into a TIA located in fisheries waters.

  • This authorization is granted through listing of the area in Schedule 2 of the Regulations.

  • Listing of the area(s) in Schedule 2 can only occur after the proposed project has been subjected to a federal environmental assessment process.

  • A key element of the process is that the proponent undertake an assessment of alternatives to demonstrate that the proposed development is what makes the most environmental and socio-economic sense.

  • Environment Canada has developed specific Guidelines for undertaking such assessments.

  • Effluent form the TIA must meet the criteria that are specified in Schedule 4 of the Regulations.

Provisions related to dilution of effluent and final discharge points
Provisions Related to Dilution of Effluent and Final Discharge Points

  • The combination of effluent with water for the purpose of diluting effluent is prohibited.

  • All effluent from the mine site must be deposited through an identifiable final discharge point (FDP).

  • All FDPs must be identified by the owner or operator of a mine, complete with plans, specifications, location, a description of how it is designed and maintained, and the name of the receiving water body.

  • This information must be provided for any FDPs that are identified by an inspector during the course of a site visit, and for any new FDP that the owner or operator wishes to use in the future.

Overview of the key monitoring requirements cont d
Overview of the Key Monitoring Requirements (cont’d) Discharge Points

  • Owners or operators are required to monitor effluent quality and flow not less than once per week.

  • Monitoring for cyanide is not required if that substance is not used as a process reagent.

  • There are provisions to enable reduction in the frequency of analysis for metals to once per quarter if results have been less than 10% of the specified monthly mean concentration in Schedule 4.

  • The frequency of analysis returns to weekly if the results of an analysis show that the concentration has increased to something greater than 10% of the specified monthly mean concentration.

  • Acute lethality testing must be conducted on a monthly basis

    • standard 96-hour test using rainbow trout

    • also required to conduct test using Daphnia magna, but effluent not required to be non-acutely lethal to Daphnia

Overview of the key monitoring requirements cont d1
Overview of the Key Monitoring Requirements (cont’d) Discharge Points

  • There is an opportunity to reduce the frequency of the acute lethality testing to once per quarter if the effluent has been demonstrated to be non-acutely lethal for 12 consecutive months.

  • The frequency of analysis must increase to twice per week if an acutely lethal effluent is measured.

  • This frequency must be maintained until three non acutely results are obtained, at which time monthly sampling and analysis can be resumed.

  • The results of all acute lethality tests must be recorded.

  • The owner or operator must also record the volume of effluent deposited, and the monitoring system that is used must be accurate to within 15% of the measured flow rate or volume.

  • The owner or operator must calculate and record the monthly mean concentration and loading for each of the deleterious substances that are listed on Schedule 4 of the Regulations.

Overview of the key reporting requirements
Overview of the Key Reporting Requirements Discharge Points

  • The owner or operator must submit to the Authorization Officer (AO) an effluent monitoring report for all tests and monitoring conducted during each calendar quarter.

  • Summary annual reports must also be submitted to the AO not later than March 31 in each year.

  • Reports on deposits out of the normal course of events must be submitted to the AO within 30 days of the occurrence.

  • This information is always submitted electronically through the Regulatory Information Submission System (RISS).

Overview of key eem requirements
Overview of Key EEM Requirements Discharge Points

  • Objective is to evaluate effects of effluent on aquatic environment, specifically fish, fish habitat and the use of fisheries resources

  • Information from EEM used to assess adequacy of regulations and ensure proper environmental management, conservation and protection

  • Program allows use of historic data and data from programs required by other regulatory agencies

  • EEM requirements are divided into two key components:

    • Effluent and water quality monitoring

    • Biological monitoring

  • The detailed EEM requirements are specified in Schedule 5 of the Regulations

Eem effluent and water quality monitoring
EEM - Effluent and Water Quality Monitoring Discharge Points

  • Four times per year, mines are required to conduct effluent characterization, sublethal toxicity testing of effluent, and water quality monitoring

  • Effluent characterization requires reporting of hardness, alkalinity, electrical conductivity and temperature, and concentrations of aluminum, cadmium, iron, mercury, molybdenum, selenium, ammonia, and nitrate

  • Water quality monitoring requires reporting of same parameters required for effluent characterization, plus all parameters required for compliance monitoring of effluent

  • Sublethal toxicity testing conducted on a fish species, an invertebrate species, a plant species and an algal species

Eem biological monitoring
EEM - Biological Monitoring Discharge Points

  • Mines are required to conduct biological monitoring studies to assess effects on fish, fish habitat and the use of fisheries resources

  • Effects on fish are assessed through comparison of adult fish exposed to effluent with unexposed fish

  • Effects on fish habitat are assessed through comparison of benthic invertebrate communities from areas exposed and unexposed to effluent

  • Effects on the use of fisheries resources are assessed by comparing mercury concentrations in fish tissue against fish health consumption guidelines, and between fish from areas exposed and unexposed to effluent

Eem biological monitoring cont d
EEM – Biological Monitoring, cont’d Discharge Points

  • An effect is a statistically significant difference in measurements taken between an exposure area and reference area for fish and benthic invertebrates

  • Program is tiered: design of monitoring for a site determined, in part, by results of previous monitoring

  • If effects are identified, subsequent EEM studies will be more intensive to determine magnitude, extent and cause of effects

  • If there are no effects, then frequency of some monitoring activities may be reduced

  • Once an effect has been identified and magnitude, extent and possible causes known, follow up actions will be determined on a site-specific basis

Compliance and enforcement
Compliance and Enforcement Discharge Points

Compliance and Enforcement Policy for the Habitat Protection and Pollution Prevention Provisions of the Fisheries Act (EC 2001)

  • General principles for application of the habitat protection and pollution prevention provisions of the Fisheries Act

  • Policy explains the role of regulatory officials in promoting, monitoring and enforcing the legislation

  • National Policy for all who exercise regulatory authority, from Ministers to enforcement personnel

Environmental code of practice for metal mines
Environmental Code of Practice for Metal Mines Discharge Points

  • Code was developed to identify and promote recommended best practices to facilitate and encourage continual improvement in environmental performance of mining facilities throughout all phases of the mine life cycle

  • Code supports the Metal Mining Effluent Regulations (MMER) but also covers a broad spectrum of environmental aspects that extend well beyond MMER coverage

  • Code is intended to be a resource for mine owners and operators, regulatory authorities and the general public

  • Many aspects of Code can be applied to non-metal mining operations and they are routinely being used in this regard in Environment Canada’s assessment of newly proposed mining projects

Scope of recommendations for the code of practice
Scope of Recommendations for the Code of Practice Discharge Points

  • Code presents over 130 recommendations regarding environmental management tools and practices applicable that can be applied to each phase of the mine life cycle

  • Environmental aspects addressed in the Code recommendations include:

    • Water management and treatment

    • Waste rock and tailings characterization and management

    • Chemicals management, including cyanide and ammonia

    • Sewage and domestic wastes

    • Air quality, particularly particulate matter releases

    • Terrestrial habitat and wildlife concerns

    • Reclamation, closure and long-term maintenance and monitoring

Linkages with legislation
Linkages with Legislation Discharge Points

  • Code supports the fundamental principles of the Metal Mining Effluent Regulations (MMER) and emphasizes the importance of life cycle planning

  • Code builds on other legislative requirements, such as the Environmental Emergency Regulations under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA)

  • Code recommendations are always considered in reviewing environmental assessments under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, and project proponents are always advised to consider them in developing their environmental management strategies

Questions? Discharge Points

Chris Doiron

Manager, Mining Section

Mining and Processing Division



Further information on Environment Canada’s mining initiatives and publications can be obtained from the following web site:


Annex deleterious substances
ANNEX – Deleterious Substances Discharge Points

  • To determine if a substance, such as waste rock, is deleterious, mining proponents are to use established reference and guidance methods such as:

    • Prediction Manual for Drainage Chemistry from Sulphidic Geologic Materials;

    • Global Acid Rock Drainage (GARD) Guide; and

    • Draft Guidelines and Recommended Methods for Prediction of Metal Leaching and Acid Rock Drainage.

  • These documents identify key characteristics of the substance in question to help Environment Canada determine whether or not the substance should be considered deleterious.

  • Environment Canada uses the benchmark concentrations in the CCME’s Canadian Water Quality Guidelines for the Protection of Freshwater Aquatic Life (CWQGs) in determining if materials such as waste rock may be a source of releases of deleterious substances.

  • Environment Canada would recommend that industry representatives review the Guidelines for the Assessment of Alternatives for Mine Waste Disposal, which are available from the web address noted in previous slide.