Memorandum of Understanding - Regulation of Impoundments and Diversions on a Mine Site
Memorandum of Understanding
between the Ministry of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources (MEMPR) and the Ministry of Environment (MoE), outlining the responsibilities for the Regulation of Impoundments and Diversions on a mine site including Tailing Storage Facilities (TSF), Flooded Impoundments (FI), Water Storage Facility (WSF), Sedimentation Control Ponds (SED POND), Sludge Storage Ponds (SLUDGE POND) and Diversion Channels (DC).
The purpose of this memorandum is to define the role of MEMPR (Mining and Minerals Division, Heath and Safety Branch), and MoE (Water Stewardship Division and Environmental Protection Division), in the siting, design, construction, operation, maintenance, abandonment, reclamation, and regulation of impoundments and diversions on a mine site, in order to protect the public, the environment and the users of water in the affected watershed.
TSF (Tailings Storage Facilities): A reservoir controlled by one or more embankments to store mine tailings and mine process water (supernatant). Tailings are fine rock materials in suspension, which are discharged from an ore concentrator or coal preparation plant. A TSF includes any started dams, seepage collection dams and ponds located beyond the downstream toe of the main embankment(s).
FI (Flooded Impoundments): A reservoir controlled by one or more embankments required to submerge tailings, PAG waste rock, rock cuts or underground workings that have potential to generate acid if exposed to the atmosphere or a reservoir controlled by one or more embankments required to regulate the flow of ARD-contaminated water, including associated sludge storage from water treatment. A TSF may become an FI upon closure of the mine. An FI includes and seepage collection dams and ponds beyond the downstream toe of the main embankment(s).
WSF (Water Storage Facility): A water storage reservoir, situated on a stream or off stream and storing water diverted from a stream, controlled by one or more embankments. A WSF does not include a TSF, FI, SED POND or SLUDGE POND, therefore a water licence is required for surface water storage.
SED POND (Sedimentation Control Ponds): A reservoir controlled by one or more embankments required to store surface water runoff and designed to facilitate the deposition of suspended solids and mitigate the release of sediment to the environments downstream.
SLUDGE POND (Sludge Storage Ponds): These ponds are developed to contain sludge, from water treatment plants, from entering into the receiving environment.
DC (Diversion Channels): Diversion structures (dam or channel) are developed to divert and control the annual inflow of the various watercourses around the mine site. These channels are developed to handle 1 in 200 year flows of the natural watercourse.
It is recognized that:
- MEMPR is responsible for ensuring that no part of the mine, including a TSF, FI, SED POND and SLUDGE POND (note requiring a Water Licence or Waste Permit) represents a danger either to the health and safety of a person in or about the mine or to the safety of the public, and is also responsible for the protection and reclamation of the surface the land and watercourses on the mine site.
- Water Stewardship Division (WSD) is responsible for the issuing of water licenses or approvals regulating the diversion, use and storage of surface water in or from a natural watercourse including any impoundments or diversion on a mine site. If a water licence is required and these works include a dam as defined under the Dam Safety Regulation, the regulation of the dam by WSD will be commensurate with the downstream consequence classification rating under the Dam Safety Regulation.
- Environmental Protection Division (EPD) is responsible for the protection of human health and the environment from any adverse effects of mine wastes or impoundments, the use of hazardous materials, and the management of contaminated sites.
- MEMPR, under the Mines Act and Health and Safety Regulation Code for Mines in BC (Code), is responsible for approving the siting, design, construction, modification, operation, maintenance, abandonment and reclamation of a TSF, FI, SED POND and SLUDGE POND, with some exceptions for any impoundment that requires a water licence (see Joint Responsibilities below). MEMPR uses the Canadian Dam Association (CDA) guidelines referenced under the code. Prior to operation, MEMPR will ensure that sufficient security has been posted to undertake the necessary works to close the impoundments should the permittee default on its responsibilities. After mine closure MEMPR will ensure that the TSF, FI, SED POND and SLUDGE POND is either reclaimed or drained, and if necessary a permanent spillway installed. In the case of a TSF and FI, a valid Mines Act Permit and reclamation bond will be maintained to ensure long-term care, maintenance and/or treatment. In the case of a default MEMPR will assume responsibility or find a third party to assume responsibility in exchange for the reclamation bond.
- WSD is responsible for licensing or approving any WSF or DC that requires a water licence or approval under the Water Act of BC and Dam Safety Regulation. This will include the approval of siting, design, construction, modification, operation, maintenance and decommissioning with the exception of TSF, FI, SED POND and SLUDGE POND (see Joint Responsibilities).
- EPD is responsible for regulating the quantity and quality of any discharge to the environment from activities relating to mining. EPD is not responsible for regulating the structural safety and integrity of impoundments at a mine site. Where the quantity or the quality of the discharge may be affected by proposed works or operational procedures, EPD may impose requirements for the siting design, construction, modification, operation, maintenance, abandonment, and reclamation of a TSF, FI, DC, SED POND, or SLUDGE POND. All applications for waste management permits and amendments dealing with mine tailings discharges and on the development of any industry codes of practice applicable to mine tailings will be referred to MEMPR for comments and advice.
Notwithstanding the above, WSD and EPD will seek to obtain agreement from MEMPR before permitting, licensing or requiring additional discharges into a TSE, FI, SED POND and SLUDGE POND anticipated in the design of the impoundment. In the event that agreement cannot be reached at the local level, this matter shall be referred to the appropriate Directors for a decision.
A TSF, FI, SED POND and SLUDGE POND that requires a water licence will be dealt with by MEMPR and WSD on a case-by-case basis. Under such agreements, MEMPR will be the approving agency for the dam design, construction, operation, maintenance and reclamation issuing a water licence, WSD will be responsible for the licensing of water and storage. Prior to issuing a water licence, WSD will confer with MEMPR to confirm that the process for approving the TSF, FI, SED POND and SLUDGE POND as noted above, will be undertaken under the Mines Permit.
If a water licence is required for a TSE, FI, SED POND and SLUDGE POND it shall be referenced to the closure plan in the Mines Act Permit. WSD will refer to MEMPR for comments and advice on all applications for water diversions relating to a TSF, FI, SED POND and SLUDGE POND.
All signatories of this MOU will endeavor to ensure that copies of all permits or licence's (and any revisions) are made available to the other signatories with an interest in the permit or licence.
Consultation and Coordination
During the project review for an Environmental Assessment Certificate and Mines Act Permit , MEMPR and MoE shall jointly review any TSF, FI, WSF, DC, SED POND and SLUDGE POND as per the terms of this agreement. Reviewer by MEMPR and MoE will be coordinated by their Ministry representatives on the Project Committees.
Where an emergency situation at the TSF, FI, SED POND and SLUDGE POND requires action that precludes prior consultation, notification of the actions taken by one party shall be given to the others as soon as possible. Copies of written orders, directives, approvals, licences, permits and amendments thereto, which include a TSF, FI, SED POND and SLUDGE POND shall be transmitted to the other parties at the time of issue.
In the event of the need for clarification of the Memorandum of Understanding or of unforeseen situations, the appropriate Directors shall consult with a view to resolving the matter.
This Memorandum of Understanding replaces the previous Letter of Understanding between MoE and MEMPR signed on September 6 and 9, 1988.
Nothing contained in this Memorandum of Understanding abrogates responsibilities or duties assigned by the Mines Act, the Waste Management Act or the Water Act.
Ministry of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources
April 22, 2009
Ministry of Environment
May 14, 2009