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Mining and Water Pollution in Canada

Jamie Kneen Communications and Outreach Coordinator responsible for: strategic research, social media, and public engagement; our Africa program, environmental assessment, and uranium mining.

There is growing public concern about the condition of fresh water in Canada. Mining affects fresh water through heavy use of water in processing ore, and through water pollution from discharged mine effluent and seepage from tailings and waste rock impoundments. There are various regulatory and voluntary efforts underway to deal with the problem of water pollution from mining.

Metal Mining Effluent Regulations:

On July 28, 2001, the proposed Metal Mining Effluent Regulation (MMER) was posted on Canada Gazette Part I, for a 60-day comment period, ending September 26, 2001. The MMERs are an attempt to update the Metal Mining Liquid Effluent Regulations, which were promulgated under the Fisheries Act in 1977.

Among others things, the MMERs regulate the levels of metals and suspended solids in mine effluent. MiningWatch Canada has submitted comments on the proposed regulations, as well as a public statement.

[See Feds Fall Short on New Regulations to Protect Water from Mine Toxins on our web site.]

Toxicological Investigations into Mining Effluent:

In late 1999 the TIME Network was formed to address toxicological issues related to the proposed MMER. TIME is a multi-stakeholder (Government, industry and non-governmental organisations) effort to consolidate existing research on mine effluent toxicity and to propose and carry out research into areas that are not yet well understood.

TIME also aims to develop methodologies to reduce or eliminate toxicants and to provide a mechanism for information dissemination. Catherine Coumans attended the most recent meeting of TIME on November 22-23, 2001. She reports that it is clear that new provisions under the MMERs are driving scientific and technological efforts to achieve non-acutely lethal effluent for Rainbow Trout (as mandated) and to reduce the acute lethality of effluent for water fleas (Daphnia Magna), which must now be monitored and reported.