Case Study

Committed to Water Quality at Kettle River-Buckhorn

After experiencing unexpected challenges in satisfying stringent water management standards at its new Kettle River-Buckhorn mine, Kinross responded aggressively to address the problem and ensure consistent compliant performance.

The mine obtained 131 permits and licences with multiple terms and conditions before starting operations; in particular, a great deal of work went into anticipating water quality and designing a treatment system for discharge of site rainfall runoff, snowmelt and water collected in the underground mine.

Based on the expected water quality and a review of All Known, Available and Reasonable Methods of Prevention and Treatment Technologies (AKART), an Ion Exchange (IX) Water Treatment Plant was selected as the technology to meet the water quality criteria for discharge.

Almost from the beginning, water quality began to deviate from what had been expected for ammonia and nitrate (present in mine water as the residual of explosives used in the mine), and in July 2008 the Washington State Department of Ecology issued a Notice of Violation for failure to meet the permit limits.

In response, Kettle River-Buckhorn added operators and made other operational adjustments to improve treatment performance, while requesting state approval for a permit modification to add a pre-treatment step of breakpoint chlorination to remove ammonia. The pre-treatment was installed in July 2009 but did not achieve the desired results, and the state issued another Notice of Violation.

Once again, Kettle River-Buckhorn acted quickly, and as a temporary measure added Reverse Osmosis (RO) in August 2009 to polish the effluent from the Ion Exchange. The effluent immediately began to consistently meet the permit standards, and the plant has maintained 100% compliance since that date. To address a more permanent solution, a blue-ribbon task force of experienced water treatment engineers and environmental professionals was formed. The monitoring data collected to date were analyzed, and the water balance model was updated to account for the observed seasonal variations in rainfall and runoff. The task force prepared a new AKART engineering study, which recommended replacing ion exchange with RO as the primary treatment method. This has been approved by the state, and the temporary RO unit will be replaced with a permanent unit in November 2010.


Just prior to the publication of this report in August 2010, the Kettle River-Buckhorn mine reported that it had notified the Washington State Department of Ecology of alleged irregularities in the operation of the water treatment plant at the mine. The allegations were made by a former employee who claims that, during a limited period in mid-2009, the water treatment plant was operated beyond its design capacity and that proper sampling protocols were not followed.

The Company noted that it had not received any allegation of actual environmental harm, nor has there been any allegation of irregularities relating to the plant’s current operations.

The Company takes these allegations very seriously and is committed to determining expeditiously whether they have any validity. The Company has retained outside counsel and an environmental engineer to perform a full and independent investigation of the matter.

In the event it is determined that the allegations have any validity, the Company will take all appropriate actions to ensure that the matter is resolved.