Yukon’s quartz mining proponents must now submit an adaptive management plan, outlining how they will manage water at hard rock exploration sites.
Officials say the newly-announced set of guidelines for the water licensing process administered by the Yukon Water Board will protect Yukon’s freshwater and promote sustainable water use by the mining industry.
Development of the guidelines started in 2017 as a goal of the Yukon Water Strategy and Action Plan.
“These guidelines will help to ensure that mineral production occurs in an environmentally responsible manner,” announced Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources, Ranj Pillai, in a statement.
Pillai added that the mineral sector is “a major driver of Yukon’s economy,” and while it aims to move projects forward in a timely manner, it can’t be at the expense of environmental standards.
The new guidelines for the water-related processes of quartz mining define an adaptive management plan as the “process of planning a response to circumstances or events that may not be fully predictable or expected.” More specifically, it states that mining development often involves uncertainties, which “can lead to impacts on the aquatic environment.”
The guidelines give three examples of instances where the adaptive management plan would prove useful. The first involves a scenario where the amount of contaminants seeping from waste rock storage facilities is higher than predicted in the water quality model; second is a scenario where the natural conditions around the site have changed to the point that the site receives more water than initially anticipated in the water balance model, or there is an unexpected impact from another use in the watershed.
Lastly, the new guidelines explore a scenario where a groundwater contamination plume is known and mitigation measures have been identified, but there are uncertainties on where and when the plume will move and where the planned mitigations should be implemented.
Submitted plans must also contain descriptions of the site’s monitoring requirements, including the location of primary monitoring stations, indicators being monitored, and frequency of monitoring.
“If the [adaptive management plan] is triggered, all monitoring data that will be used for analysis should be complemented with background data and site operation data,” the new guidelines state.