Terrafame discharges purified waters to ensure dam and environmental safety 8.4.2016 14:10

Terrafame Oy starts today on 8 April 2016 additional discharges of purified waters from the mining area in the Sotkamo mine. The aim of the discharges is 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 Vaasa Administrative Court halved the discharge pipe’s sulphate load with its interim decision in September 2015. The pipe runs from the mining area to Lake Nuasjärvi. As it has not been possible to use the discharge pipe as planned, more water continues to accumulate in the mining area. The storage pools are critically full already before the melting of snow and spring floods. This is why we must resort to additional discharges to secure dam safety,” says Lauri Ratia, Chairman of the Board of Terrafame Oy.

The Kainuu Centre for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment (ELY Centre) has on 7 April 2016 issued a decision for Terrafame based on section 175 of the Act on Environmental Protection. In accordance with section 14 of the Act on Environmental Protection, Terrafame Oy has on 8 April 2016 filed a notification to the ELY Centre of Kainuu stating that it is not possible to comply with the environmental permit concerning the operations of the mine due to a reason which is not related to the company’s activities. To securely manage 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. Terrafame conducted additional discharges in a similar way on 19–31 December 2015.

It is estimated that the discharges of purified water from Kortelampi and Latosuo to nearby watercourse areas will last until the end of May or until the water surface at the water reservoirs has reached the level that can be considered safe. Based on modellings made, the amount of water to be discharged is estimated to total around 1.6 million m³, but the final discharge amount will depend on the actual rain and snowmelt situation in the spring.

“Terrafame’s goal is to secure environmental safety through the additional discharges in a challenging water situation. The upcoming spring floods and the limited possibilities to use the discharge pipe into Lake Nuasjärvi have led to a situation where environmental safety can be secured only through additional discharges,” says Ratia.

“Terrafame continuously does everything in its power to improve the water situation at the mine. Due to previous operations at the mine, the mining area has had extra waters, and we work constantly to handle their storage, purification and discharge in accordance with environmental permits. For example, we are building a centralised water treatment plant to ensure effective water treatment also in the future. However, in view of controlling the water situation and securing the conditions necessary for mining operations, the coming decision of the Vaasa Administrative Court regarding the matter of the discharge pipe into Lake Nuasjärvi is critical,” Ratia concludes.

The use of the discharge pipe into Lake Nuasjärvi began in November 2015. The water being diverted into the discharge pipe has clearly fulfilled the limits set by the environmental permit. The water quality of Lake Nuasjärvi has remained at the level of previous years despite the use of the discharge pipe.

Terrafame Oy’s notification to the ELY Centre of Kainuu on 8 April 2016 (in Finnish)

Decision given by the ELY Center of Kainuu for Terrafame on 7 April 2016 (in Finnish)

Further information and interview requests:
Terrafame Oy, Chairman of the Board Lauri Ratia, lauri.ratia@terrafame.fi

Terrafame Ltd. is a Finnish mining company producing primarily nickel and zinc by bioheapleaching at its mine located in Sotkamo. The aim is environmentally sustainable, safe and economically viable mining operations. Terrafame is owned by Terrafame Group Ltd., which is wholly owned by the State of Finland.