"One of the biggest issues for miners in Canada is they cannot discharge the water as they used to in the past, because there are new, more stringent regulations taking effect."
What progress has Minera Solutions made in growing its business in 2020?
Growth was steady, meaning that there were still a lot of projects that we were able to get involved with. However, that busines came predominately from the network that we already had projects with.
Can you give us an overview of some of the biggest issues pertaining to water that miners face in Canada?
In all of Canada there is too much water on mine sites. When companies take on mine expansion projects, they have more and more water to treat because there is rain and snow melt. They have to hold the water and treat it in a tailings pond and are required to discharge of the water. This is totally different than what a company would face in Chile or Mexico where water is scarce.
One of the biggest issues for miners in Canada is they cannot discharge the water as they used to in the past, because there are new, more stringent regulations taking effect. For instance, the metal and diamond mining effluent regulations (MDMER) are taking affect in 2021, and this will limit unionized ammonia. Therefore, the water has to be non-toxic prior to discharge. Mining companies are putting more and more biological systems in order to treat for this ammonia. As always, because of the nature of the business, they have a lot of total suspended solids (TSS) that are in the water. That could be iron or different types of particulate that needs to be treated along with the dissolved portion of metals in the water that needs to be precipitated before discharge. There is a whole area of technologies that can be used in order to do this type pre-treatment. Overall, there are a lot of opportunities related to TSS, metals and ammonia in Canada.
Can you point to some case studies that illustrate the service Minera Solutions provides to clients?
A customer of Minera’s came to us because they had a water treatment issue and needed to treat the water quickly. They were not able to build a permanent plant fast enough, so Minera provided them with a temporary system. Initially it was supposed to be there for two years until the client was able to build the new plant. However, now they are looking at expanding and making our temporary plant to treat TSS and metals permanent. They want to expand to double the size of this temporary plant in order to avoid the cost of these other solutions.
What distinguishes Minera from its generalist water treatment competitors?
The whole idea of creating Minera was to be a company that serves as a manufacturing agent, specialized in mine water treatment. It was a good call, because it allowed us to secure a few product lines. Because we are focused on the mining sector exclusively, we understand their language and issues. They trust Minera and the manufacturer faster than if we were a generalist in water treatment.
How has the mining sectors view on water changed over the course of your career?
It has changed dramatically, especially in the last five to six years. Water treatment is taken seriously and upstream of any project. It is a result of having more regulation. But I think it is also that there is a greater sense of awareness of those environmental issues that threaten mining companies. They are tackling the challenge head on and trying to take the best course of action. It has become more important to them, and they are responding very well. That is largely why we are not seeing any slowdown and more of an increase in the number and quality of water treatment projects across Canada.
How do water treatment options differ depending on the commodity being produced?
In gold operations, there are many customers where at some point in their process, they pollute the water in some way by creating ammonia. It is due to their operational process, and their flow is not big compared to other types of mines. Iron ore mines have much more flow to treat, but for different purposes. It will not be because of the treatment and extraction of the ore, it will be because of the mass of land that they are using. Because of the rainfall and snowmelt, it will generate a lot of water to be treated for metals and TSS, as compared to a goldmine, where you must treat for metals as well but you will have to treat for ammonia.