2008 Annual Monitoring Report Summary
While underground mining reduces the impacts when compared to the previously proposed open pit, significant water quality and quantity issues remain.
In April 2009, the first annual meeting took place to review the Water Year 2008 monitoring reports. The purpose of the meeting was to provide input towards the discussion of the adequacy of the monitoring plans, to monitor the hydrologic aspects of the Buckhorn Mine and mitigation, and to suggest modifications that might be needed for adaptive management. The annual reporting requirements are extensive.
After brief introductions including representatives from Washington State Department of Ecology, and Washington State Fish & Wildlife, the USDA Forest Service, Crown/Kinross, Golder Associates and OHA, OHA started the meeting off with an overview of our issues and concerns and a presentation by our consultant Ann Maest of Stratus Consulting.
OHA expressed grave concern over the failure of Crown/Kinross to submit reports required by the Hydrologic Monitoring Plan that are needed to understand the impacts of the mine. Crown/Kinross consultant, Golder submitted nine technical memos to the agencies that related to the Adaptive Management Plan. The memos were not integrated and were poorly organized. There was no table of contents or index and it was difficult to discern if requirements were met. We expressed our concern and frustration that there was not enough time to accomplish the objectives of the annual coordination meeting in the four hours allotted to it. Many of the agencies in attendance also expressed concern regarding the completeness and organization of the memos that were presented. Because of the incompleteness and poor organization of last year’s reporting and lack of time, we never actually got to the point during the annual meeting of discussing the adequacy of the plans or if modifications may be needed.
Since that time OHA has done an extensive review of the plans to develop a comprehensive matrix of annual reporting requirements and their degree of completion for 2008. After reviewing the memos and reports, in cooperation with Kinross, OHA finds the 2008 annual reporting incomplete and lacking basic foundational data needed to analyze the mine’s impacts or the accuracy of model predictions. OHA’s analysis shows that the reporting does not meet the requirements of the plans.
Some Highlights from OHA’s Independent Review
OHA presented a series of graphs and maps showing location of increasing levels from baseline of nitrate, sulfate, ammonia, and chloride.
Annual Reporting Requirements:
- Hydrologic Monitoring Plan (HMP) – No annual reports received
- Adaptive Management Plan (AMP) – Memos not integrated (hard to discern if requirements are met), memos are not reports
- Ecological and Aquatic Resources Management Plan – Annual reporting incomplete
Baseline (Conditions that existed before construction and mining):
- Baseline water quality values are different for Kinross and Ecology
- Some baseline values are higher than current concentrations
- Baseline should be reevaluated so changes from baseline water quality conditions are apparent
- Detection limits
- Some numeric values not in database
- Some metals detection limits are too high compared to baseline/standard
- Required detection limits are not noted in permit
- Dissolved vs. total measurements
- On-site precipitation data
- Continuous flow inflow/effluent data
- Surface water monitoring points
- SW-15: flow and water quality
- According to HMP, flow should be measured, but no frequency was set. Data are available from Kinross but not in monthly monitoring database.
- Groundwater – Depth to water at Infiltration Gallery should be reported as depth below ground surface (permit condition) rather than below casing.
Mine Inflow Water Quality: Measured vs. Predicted
Southwest Zone: higher than predicted sulfate, aluminum, arsenic, fluoride, lead, manganese, nitrate, and zinc–Makes treatment more difficult than expected
- Myers Creek Augmentation Study
- The objective of the work was to see if augmentation of the stream with Lost Creek well water would increase flow at the international border (SW-15)
- Flow at SW-15 was not monitored during the test
- The augmentation study occurred just after a major storm, making results difficult to interpret
- Study should be repeated under better weather conditions, and flow should be measured at SW-15
- Adaptive management
- Measured vs. predicted flows
- Locations recommended for additional flow
OHA’s Review Identifies Shortcomings
OHA’s analysis after almost one year of operations was hindered by incomplete annual monitoring and reporting of data. The monthly monitoring of surface and ground water around the mine shows that specific constituents continue to rise above baseline although they remain below standards. We consider the lack of annual monitoring reports specific to each requirement of the Hydrologic Monitoring Plan a potential permit violation. OHA acknowledges that some of the required information may be included in the Adaptive Management Plan memos but, we do not believe this meets the permit requirements. Kinross has expressed a commitment to get it right.
- No on-site meteorological data as required
- No reporting of flow data for SW-15 (Myers Creek at international border)
- Outfall 002 is discharging from pipe to rubble, not to stormwater pond as required
- Inflow/effluent – continuous flow data required but not reported
Measured vs. Predicted Flow Issues:
- Measured low flows (fall/winter) are often substantially lower than modeled baseflows
- FEFLOW model does not adequately simulate pre-mining conditions
- Need precipitation data from the mine and historic stream flows as input to model
- Failure to complete conservation easements for mitigation properties
- Failure to submit annual reports in a timely fashion
- Failure to make a good faith effort to administer monitoring plan
- Many surface water points monitored only from June-Sept
- Some required data in AMP reports; no HMP reports
- Water use data statistics and photos missing
- Stream flow data missing
- Evaluation of predictions in groundwater flow model not adequate
- Reporting of additional monitoring (NPDES S3.D)
- Water level or flow are required by the HMP and implementation of HMP is required as a conditions of the NPDES – then flow should be required as part of the NPDES permit
- Fix weather station at Buckhorn Mountain
- Re-evaluate modeled baseflow with data from Buckhorn Mountain weather station and historic data
- Monitor and report flow at SW-4, SW-12, SW-13, SW-15
- Re-do Myers Creek augmentation evaluation with monitoring point at SW-15
- Re-evaluate baseline water quality for surface water and groundwater
- Analytical issues
- Detection limits
- Dissolved and total metals for surface water
- Continue to improve treatment to better remove sulfate, nitrate/ammonia, chloride; consider using less explosive
- DMRs and composite database should include flow monitoring and OHA settlement monitoring
- “Frozen” monitoring points should be photo-documented
- Provide water use data
- Need integrated annual reporting
- Mine site (groundwater, surface water, influent/effluent, dewatering wells)
- “Mitigations” (compensation projects)
- The next annual meeting should be a full day long and reporting submitted when due
Locations for Additional Flow: Adaptive Management
- Monitor and report flow at SW-4 (Lower Gold Creek), SW-12 (Lower North Bolster Creek), or SW-13 (Lower South Bolster Creek) – not currently required
- Flow monitoring is required at upstream locations on Gold Creek (SW-10), North Bolster Creek (SW-11), and South Bolster Creek (SW-14)
- Depletions are predicted for SW-4, SW-12, and SW-13
- Monitoring at downstream locations provides better picture of dewatering effects
- Monitor and report flow at SW-15 (Myers Creek at international border)
Overall OHA expressed concern that predictions of operational and post-closure water quality were too optimistic, due in large part to underestimation of contaminant concentrations from geochemical testing results. The amount of rock predicted to become acidic over short and longer time frames were also underestimated, and plans for management and identification of acid-generating rock poorly defined. (See page 5 of Buckhorn Bulletin, March 2008)
- The geochemical tests used to define potentially acid-generating (PAG) rock will underestimate the acid-generation potential of rocks in the development rock stockpile and in the underground mine.
- The short test length and high detection limits for metals renders most of the humidity cell test results almost useless as indicators of water quality.
- The prediction that development rock will not become acidic in the time that it is exposed during mining is not supported by the mineralogic information or the HCT data.
- Predictions of operational and post-closure water quality underestimate the ability of the mined materials to generate acid and leach contaminants because they rely upon a series of assumptions and analytical and modeling approaches that underestimate the reactivity of mined materials.
- Predictions of mitigated post-closure mine water quality does not consider the presence of reactive mine wall rock and underestimate the exceedences of groundwater standards in the underground mine
- The use of “passivation” techniques is experimental, requires a high degree of engineering success, and is highly unlikely to prevent groundwater exceedences in the underground mine under post-closure conditions.
- The quantitation limit (QL) for effluent parameters is not defined in the NPDES permit. If the QL is not at least three to five times lower than the effluent limit, it will not be possible to distinguish a non-detect value from an exceedence.
- No specific quality assurance/quality control (QA/QC) criteria are required for sample reporting.
- No maximum daily limits are set for surface water discharges for a number of important parameters.
- The effluent limits for several of the contaminants are set higher than drinking water standards.
- The effluent limits for cadmium and nickel are much higher than the federal Clean Water Act limits using the relevant aquatic life hardness-based criterion values at the hardness value suggested in the permit.
- Chronic and acute tests should be run when concentrations in the stream are the highest.
- The discharge of treated effluent to groundwater will cause exceedences of toxics in surface water.
- In addition to water quantity or flow monitoring, Myers Creek and tributaries should be monitored for water quality changes that may result from discharge of mine pool water under post-closure conditions.
Some general and specific examples of issues related to the 2008 annual reporting requirements are as follows:
- The annual monitoring reports were poorly organized and difficult to follow. To review any aspect of the Buckhorn Mine annual reports required navigation and cross referencing through multiple plans, reports and memos.
- NO required Hydrologic Monitor Plan (HMP) report(s) were submitted to the agencies. The plan is very specific as to the method, location, frequency, and reporting period for each aspect of the plan being monitored. While the Adaptive Management Plan (AMP) uses monitoring information to compare and evaluate, the specific requirements of the HMP have a much broader scope, and many of the required elements had not been reported. If Kinross thought that the HMP reporting requirements were contained in the AMP, some attempt should be made to document which specific requirement was being addressed. OHA did extensive cross-referencing and found many missing HMP elements. (See Stratus Consulting, 2009, Annual Reporting Requirements)
- Much of the required analyses and data were missing. The AMP reporting contains quite a bit of very useful information that has been greatly improved since the annual coordination meeting with the addition of a table of contents for the ten memos that Golder provided when OHA asked for it. However, much of the data analysis and interpretation required annually has not been reported.
- The discharge to the NPDES outfalls was not reported.
- The AMP requires comparison of operational data with pre-mining predictions and conditions, but many of the comparisons were not conducted or only partially conducted.
- The on-site meteorological station did not function for most of 2008. The failure of Kinross to maintain a functioning weather station on Buckhorn Mountain makes problematic the evaluation of whether water resource impacts are mine or weather related. Kinross made an effort to provide alternative data, but given the very localized weather patterns for the area, meteorological information must be site-specific (i.e. on Buckhorn Mountain) to be representative.
It is not enough to simply say, “We will do better next time.” Ground and surface water predictions need to be reevaluated and improvements need to be made as part of adaptive management for the mine.