Site Water Management Questions Submitted to the EAO During the AIR/EIS Public Comment Period
Note: Since these questions were posed, the mine plan has been changed to include a tailings reservoir.
The amount of water the proponent proposes to use is a major issue. 15 billion litres of water per year will be pumped from Kamloops Lake to the mine site. The proposed mine will be located immediately above the city, and in particular above Aberdeen and Pineview Valley. Aberdeen already has major ground water and ground slippage issues which would be compounded by any water escaping the mine site.
At the KGHM Ajax workshop held in April 2012, Mr. Jim Whittaker stated that the zero discharge of water from the mine site, despite the huge amounts pumped to the site every hour, would be achieved through evaporation. However, evaporation is simply discharge of water to the air above the mine, instead of to the ground, and that in itself has negative consequences, as are indicated in the questions KAPA has submitted which refer to the generation of haze and fog, and the impact on vegetation. See "Weather and Climate" questions below.
3.12 Site Water Management
The annual total of 14 billion, 690 million, 520,000 litres of water supplied to the mine site is approximately 15 million cubic meters of water a year. This large volume of water being added to the site year after year must be accommodated. Only a small fraction can be held in enclosed storage for mine use. The concept of “zero discharge” as stated by KGHM to mean ” all water that comes in contact with the mine is captured on site and recycled back to the mining and milling process” is impossible to achieve because the system is not closed.
1. What fraction of the nearly 15 million cubic meters of water will be stored as new surface water at the site? What fraction will seep into the aquifers? What fraction will evaporate into the air? If more and more water is stored each year in enclosed tanks at the site, what fraction is this?
2. The annual precipitation amount of about 200 mm falling on 25 square kilometres of surface will yield a yearly water input of 5 million cubic meters. Rain and snow falling on the site will interact with all materials stored on the surface at the mine site.
3. What program is proposed to measure the chemistry of the precipitation induced runoff from waste rock and ore piles to monitor for heavy metals and other hazardous materials?
4. How will the proponent achieve the "zero discharge" claim for the mine site? How will KGHM prevent water contaminated with toxic elements from leaking into Peterson Creek, a source of water for Knutsford residents? Both Peterson Creek and Cherry Creek could drain such toxic contaminants into the Thompson River, a source of fish and drinking water for downstream residents.
5. Why has there been no reference to a practical attempt to manage the underground water systems while the mine is being operated and the water being drawn down, or when the mine is closed the new water table is being established?
6. Drainage is a problem common to the type of mine proposed by Ajax. Given the huge amount of water to be pumped to the mine site 24/7, 365 days per year, how will KGHM prevent the escape of water from the mine site toward Kamloops thus worsening the situation in Aberdeen? Any additional water entering the Aberdeen area could prove disastrous. This area already has significant excess groundwater and ground slippage problems which require the operation of a number of wells, and the monitoring of piezometers registering ground movement.