Terrafame starts additional discharges of purified waters to ensure dam and environmental safety 21.12.2015 16:03
Terrafame Oy started on 19.12.2015 additional discharges of purified waters from the mining area into nearby waterways to ensure dam safety and environmental safety. According to Terrafame’s assessment, the water at the dams of Kortelampi and Latosuo has climbed to a level where the risk of uncontrollable leakage of water into the environment has risen too high.
“The Northern Finland Regional State Administrative Agency granted an environmental permit for the discharge pipe into Lake Nuasjärvi in April 2015, but the Vaasa Administrative Court halved the discharge pipe’s sulphate load with its interim decision in September. In practice, this has limited the amount of purified water to be diverted from the mining area to be smaller than the amount of water that forms in the area through rainfall. Due to this, the water storage pools at the mine are critically full,” says Lauri Ratia, Chairman of the Board of Terrafame Oy.
In accordance with section 123 of the Act on Environmental Protection, Terrafame Oy has on 18 December 2015 filed a notification stating that it is not possible to comply with the environmental permit concerning the operations of the mine due to an unexpected and exceptional reason, which is not related to the company’s activities. To secure the water situation, Terrafame will start discharges of water from the Kortelampi reservoir into the Vuoksi watercourse area and from the Latosuo reservoir into the Oulujoki watercourse area. At the same time, the capacity of the discharge pipe into Lake Nuasjärvi will be increased to its maximum capacity of 1,000 m³/h.
It is estimated that the additional discharges from Kortelampi and Latosuo will last until the end of 2015. The amount of purified water from both Kortelampi and Latosuo to be discharged into the nearby waterways is estimated to be altogether around 500,000 m³. In addition, the use of the discharge pipe at full capacity entails around 250,000 m³ of additional discharges of water from Latosuo.
“The sole purpose of the additional discharges of purified waters is to secure environmental safety. The exceptionally substantial rainfall and, in particular, the melting of snow in combination with the possibility of using the discharge pipe into Lake Nuasjärvi in a limited way have led to a situation where environmental safety must be secured through additional discharges,” says Ratia. “It should be noted that Terrafame’s valid environmental permit allows discharges of purified waters from Kortelampi to the watercourse areas of Vuoksi and from Latosuo to the watercourse areas of Oulujoki from the beginning of 2016. However, it is our view that the discharges must now be commenced about two weeks ahead of schedule to ensure environmental safety.”
In autumn 2015, Terrafame Oy began the ramp-up of the Sotkamo mine in a highly challenging situation and, during its short operative time, the company has had rather limited possibilities to impact the development of the mine’s water situation. “Due to previous operations at the mine, the mining area has had extra waters for whose storage, purification and discharge in accordance with environmental permits Terrafame has done everything in its power,” continues Ratia.
“However, in view of controlling the water situation and the future Terrafame’s mining operations, the coming decision of the Vaasa Administrative Court regarding the matter of the discharge pipe into Lake Nuasjärvi is critical”, concludes Ratia.
The test use of the discharge pipe into Lake Nuasjärvi began in September 2015, and its actual use began in November 2015. The quality of the water being diverted into the discharge pipe has clearly been better than the limits set by the environmental permit, for instance regarding the water’s average concentration of nickel and also sulphate.
Further information and interview requests:
Terrafame Oy, Chairman of the Board Lauri Ratia, email@example.com
Terrafame Ltd. is a Finnish mining company producing primarily nickel and zinc by bioheapleaching at its mine located in Sotkamo. In August 2015, Terrafame acquired the business operations and assets of Talvivaara Sotkamo Ltd. from its bankruptcy estate and is now carrying on the mining operations in Sotkamo. Terrafame is owned by Terrafame Group Ltd., which is wholly owned by the State of Finland.