The scale and nature of mining projects may result in impacts to the receiving environment, including groundwater resources. These impacts need to be quantified before undertaking the project and throughout the mining lifecycle to ensure regulatory compliance, project sustainability, and environmental protection.
Common groundwater impacts associated with mining projects may include:
- aquifer drawdown and/or reduction in groundwater flow due to pumping from groundwater production wells and/or dewatering of open pit/underground workings;
- loss of groundwater discharge to surface water such as springs, lakes or streams (of particular significance during winter baseflow conditions) due to aquifer drawdown/dewatering related to mining activities;
- seepage and associated contaminant transport from mine waste units such as waste rock piles, heap leach piles, tailings storage facilities, backfilled and/or flooded pits/underground workings; and
- off-site migration of contaminant plumes in groundwater aquifers (originating from mine waste units) and potential discharge of contaminants into the receiving surface water (springs, lakes or streams).
The use of numerical groundwater models enables decision makers to study and evaluate potential impacts of large and complex mining projects. Sophisticated models and modelling platforms are, however, no guarantee of good modelling practice. The complexities of groundwater models used for impact assessment may even lead to misuse and/or misinterpretation.
This course on groundwater modelling describes the broader concepts of groundwater modelling related to impact assessment for mining projects. Yet, these guidelines reflect generally accepted best practices in groundwater modelling and as such should be applicable to a wide range of groundwater modelling applications.
This groundwater modeling course is based on the British Columbia Groundwater Modelling Guidelines which were commissioned by the British Columbia Ministry of Environment (BC MoE). This course has been modified and condensed to suit the format and (international) audience of an Edumine course.