BC ENVIRONMENTAL APPEAL BOARD UPHOLDS LIMIT OF COPPER DISCHARGE INTO THE QUESNEL LAKE WATERSHED


(CCQL comments in blue)


An Appeal by Mount Polley Mine for removal of NPM (Numeric Performance Metrics/Copper) Provisions from the Quesnel Lake discharge Permit #11678 The NPM is established: Total copper 12 mg/L


The Environmental Appeal Board decision document of August 22, 2022 is attached for your information. A summary of excerpts (in italics) from the decision follow:


DECISION NO. EAB-EMA-20-A003(b) [Page 1]

In the matter of an appeal under section 100 of the Environmental Management Act, S.B.C. 2003,c. 53 BETWEEN: Mount Polley Mining Corporation APPELLANT

AND: Director, Environmental Management Act RESPONDENT AND: Douglas Watt PARTICIPANT

BEFORE: A panel of the Environmental Appeal Board Linda Michaluk, Panel Chair

DATE: Conducted by way of written submissions and oral cross-examinations and closing statements, concluding on May 19, 2022

APPEAL

[1] Mount Polley Mining Corporation (“MPMC”) appeals a decision by the Director Waste Management (the “Director”), Environmental Management Act (the “Act”),

to amend permit no. 11678 (the “Permit”) by adding numeric performance metrics to sections 2.8.2(a) and2.8.2(b) (the “NPM Provisions”) in the Permit. The amendment was issued on February 1, 2020 (the “February 2020 Amendment”).

The Permit authorizes MPMC to discharge effluent into Quesnel Lake from MPMC’s copper and gold mine (the “Mine”).

[2] The Environmental Appeal Board (the “Board”)has the authority to hear this appeal undersection 100 of the Act. Under section 103 of the Act, the Board has the power to:

a) send the matter back to the Director, with directions,

b) confirm, reverse, or vary the decision that amended the Permit, or

c) make any decision that the Director could have made, and that the Board considers appropriate in the circumstances.


DECISION NO. EAB-EMA-20-A003(b) [Page 2]

[3] MPMC seeks orders striking the NPM Provisions from the amended Permit.

[4] At the request of the parties, the appeal was conducted in writing with witness cross-examination and closing statements conducted orally.


To break it down I’ve included the highlights of the decision below. You will find the summary of participant Doug Watt submissions para; 81, 82, 83


The Decision by the EAB [Page 19 – 26 Paragraph 91- 124]

Para; 104

I agree with the Director that setting a target in the Permit to gauge optimisation efforts is preferable to simply stating in the Permit that optimisation is required. A permit is an instrument that sets out the basis for discharging waste to the environment. As a result, if the provisions in a permit are clear and specific rather than vague, the permit holder can better understand what they are expected to do to achieve compliance, The evidence before me shows that from 2017 DECISION NO. EAB-EMA-20-A003(b) Page 22 onward, the Director was moving from a vague permit requirement of optimizing the WTP, to one of setting a particular optimization target that would be achieved over time. The Director took this action because he was concerned that the discharge of copper into Quesnel Lake needed to be addressed given the background levels determined through lake water monitoring, and he wanted to see specific action in terms of WTP optimization.

Para; 105

MPMC did not dispute the Director’s testimony that the BC Water Quality Guidelines value for copper in

Quesnel Lake has been exceeded, that there have been times when the Mine has had to suspend discharge because the maximum limit for copper in section 1.2.4of the Permit was not being met, and that there were reports and various recommendations from Golder that the operation of the WTP could be improved. In fact, there was agreement amongst the parties that ongoing optimisation of the WTP is something that should be done.…

Para; 108

MPMC argues that not meeting the NPM target may have consequences for MPMC. I find that the wording of the previous version of the Permit, stating that MPMC “must assess and optimise” the WTP and report on “implementing an improved copper removal process”, also would have had consequences if MPMC had failed to comply…

Para; 112

For the reasons I have discussed above, I find that, in general, including the NPM Provisions in the Permit are appropriate in the circumstances. I next address whether the specific NPM target for total copper is appropriate in the circumstances.

Para; 116

I find that in the circumstances, setting a NPM target of 12 µg/L for total copper in the permit is appropriate. [117] In conclusion, I find that the inclusion of the NPM Provisions, including the NPM target of 12 µg/L for total copper, appropriate in the Permit in the circumstances.


Para; 122

For these reasons, I order that section 2.8.2(b) is to be amended to read as follows: The Permittee must operate and optimize the design and performance of the WTP to target achievement of any prescribed NPM. The stated NPM target value represents WTP operation that achieves annual; average effluent quality that is at or below any specified NPM. Assessment of the attainment of NPM values must be reported in an annual optimization update progress report appended to the annual report required in section 4.2. If the effluent quality does not achieve an NPM value specified by the Director, the Permittee must identify and propose response actions to bring the effluent quality toward meeting the target value in the annual optimization update progress report. Response action may include treatment plant optimization and/or source control and/or water management improvements, and a schedule for implement the response action must be included in the annual optimization update progress report. The following NPM is established: Total copper 12 mg/L.



NOTE* The appeal to have the discharge completely removed from Quesnel Lake is still ongoing and will be heard by the EAB in late May 2023.


For the full Decision report click here



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