Global diamond mining major, De Beers, may be in deep water as its completely underground Snap Lake diamond mine faces risk of closure over an environmental issue.
The bone of contention between De Beers and the Mackenzie Valley Land and Water Board is the volume of chloride discharge into Snap Lake. The current permissible level is already more than two and a half times higher than the level recommended for the protection of aquatic life. Therefore, the new limit for chloride discharge into Snap Lake has been reduced from 310 milligrams per liter to 160 milligrams per liter, which is scheduled to come into effect from January 1, 2015.
De Beers has stated that it is not possible for the company to adhere to the new limit and has sought several changes to its water license for the mine, to avoid non-compliance of the license terms. Firstly, De Beers has requested the board to defer the new limit’s effective date to June 2020. Secondly, it has requested the board to regulate chloride as one of the Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) component with the total limit to be set at 850 milligrams per liter, for Jan – December 2015 period. By then, the final limit on TDS is expected to be set. This will have the effect of superseding the chloride discharge limit regulations.
However, these sought-after water license changes have been opposed by Northwest Territories aboriginal groups, which contend that the chloride content of the mineral water lake has increased 100 times since diamond mining began in 2008, when waste water containing chloride and other salts started being pumped from the underground mine into the lake.
Although, the final decision on this issue is awaited, penalties for non-compliance of water license terms ranges from warning to legal proceedings. De Beers had earlier stated that one of the many outcomes in case of violation of the license can be shutting down the mine.
[Cover Image Courtesy: Lidcor IP Holdings, De Beers]