Underground Water Management for the Mining industry

Underground water management held unconventional challenges for a mining operation in northern Québec.

The search for precious metals sometimes takes mining prospectors into remote and hostile environments. These environments come with many operational, environmental, social and cultural challenges. For instance, identifying a mineral-rich area that is very deep requires installing underground facilities to optimize mineral extraction. Installing a network of shafts, tunnels and drifts creates drainage conduits for underground water. What’s more, permafrost thawing is accelerated by heating in the work areas. The areas natural underground water is unusually highly saline. Finally, underground water carries a low quantity of ammonia nitrogen ensuing from explosives. Each of these challenges was a factor for this mining operation in Northern Canada.

Our Opportunities to Innovate

  • Non-conventional treatment of ammonia nitrogen due to salinity
  • Manufacture and delivery of corrosion-resistant treatment equipment
  • Design, manufacture and installation of treatment system within short time frame
  • Volume of water treated and stored underground: more than 70,000 m3
  • Compliance with environmental standards for discharge of treated water into the sea

Our Approach

To complete this project, an integrated team including the client was set up at the mining site. WSP made good use of contact with in-depth understanding of the site’s unique environment and the peculiarities of the water to be treated. Our experts completed a technological review of treatment methodologies while demonstrating innovation and creativity. New technologies reviewed included zeolite adsorption, an electrochemical reactor, electrocoagulation and oxidation using ozone, and ferrate. These are advanced processes that demonstrate the extent of treatment possibilities evaluated for this project. WSP provided engineering and environmental management services.

Environmental and Cultural Sensitivity

WSP and the client were aware of the project’s environmental and cultural challenges. Regulatory requirements were a primary factor in all phases of the project. The team’s efforts will ensure that the mine will continue to operate with the minimum possible impact on the environment and cultural life in the community. As a result, it has been possible to eliminate the toxic effect of ammonia nitrogen in the water discharged into the sea by offering a treatment solution that suited the client’s specific needs.

A Collaborative Approach

The technical challenges encountered during the project helped our Mining and Environment experts develop a work synergy with our client, drawing on their expertise to find innovative and efficient solutions.