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Evaluation of Complex Systems to Develop Key Water Quality Influences at the DeBeers Snap Lake Diamond Project

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  • DeBeers Canada Mining Inc (DeBeers) recently submitted an Environmental Assessment (EA) for its proposed Snap Lake Diamond Mine located in Northwest Territories, Canada. As part of the EA process, a site water quality management plan must be developed. Plan development requires an integrated approach such that the key factors influencing water quality can be identified and managed to minimise potential impact. A system model was therefore developed to simulate the site-wide water quality conditions and mass loadings to the principal environmental receptor of concern, Snap Lake, during operations and post-closure. Requirements of the simulation included integrating hydrology, geochemistry, hydrogeology and site management practices in a dynamic way. A unique feature of the site was the need to accommodate a complex flow system that included a feedback loop between lake water and mine water. A system model was constructed using the GoldSim software package that integrated on-site water quality and flow measurements, as well as results from independent groundwater flow and geochemical modelling efforts. The GoldSim model simulated concurrently the movement of 39 solutes through the subsurface mine and surface facilities. Solute sources considered included four different waste rock and tailings types, explosives use in the mine, treatment plant discharge, and recycled process water for dust suppression. Separate solubility constraints were identified for different regions of the flow system (eg underground mine; treatment facility; surface water bodies). Kinetic test data were used to derive temperature-dependent rate constants for use in calculating mass inputs from surface sources such as waste rock piles. The model generated water quality estimates over time for a variety of management scenarios at several potential discharge locations. The integrated approach used by the model was effective in identifying the significance of key factors influencing overall water quality such as explosives use, mine water inflow rates, waste rock reaction rates, site/mine management options, and effectiveness of treatment. The model provides an example of an effective tool for comprehensive, integrated system evaluation and management.

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