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Review of Operational Water Supply Option Zafranal Project DRAFT

Independent Review of Majes Irrigation Area Operational Water Supply Option


Zafranal Project

Leslie Smith, Ph.D., P.Geo.

January 24 2017

DRAFT
_________________________________________________________________________________________________

1. Introduction

Teck Resources Ltd. requested an independent review of the potential to develop a


groundwater supply for the Zafranal Project in southern Peru using a brackish aquifer
located beneath the nearby Majes Irrigation Area. Over the past 33 years, an
extensive mound of brackish groundwater has been created beneath the irrigation
area due to water application rates well in excess of the evapotranspiration rate
(plant growth and losses from the soil zone by evaporation).

Mr. Warren Yau of Teck Resources suggested a focus on two questions for this review.
First, is the hydrogeologic model of the aquifer defensible? Second, is the
development plan technically sound? It is understood that the spatial distribution of
brackish water with varying degrees of salinity may emerge as an important
constraint on the available supply and permissible locations for establishing a well
field.

Participants have referred to the system as a man-made aquifer because the water
table has risen some 150 m within the permeable sediments that underlie the
irrigation area. This term carries with it the connotation that the system is somehow
unique. I would discourage use of the term man-made aquifer, and in this report
will simply refer to the mound of brackish water that has developed as the aquifer.
Although the circumstances are quite different, the brackish-water system at Majes
has elements in common with aquifer storage and recovery systems that have a long
history of use in North America and Europe as a means of augmenting water supplies.

2. Material Provided for the Review

A meeting was convened on January 10 2017 at the Teck Resources office in


Vancouver to discuss the hydrogeological investigations that have been completed
for the Zafranal Project. Mr. David Evans of FloSolutions, the hydrogeological
consultant to the Zafranal Project, presented a detailed overview of the field
programs that have been undertaken at the Majes Irrigation Area, data
interpretations and conceptual model development, numerical modeling, and current
thinking on well field design.

Material available for this review was:

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Review of Operational Water Supply Option Zafranal Project DRAFT

FloSolutions PowerPoint Presentation, Deep Dive Presentation on Operational


Water Supply Option, January 10, 2017.

FloSolutions, Zafranal Project, PFS Hydrogeology Report, April 2016.

FloSolutions PowerPoint Presentation, PFS Review Meeting Package 5, Tailings


Management Facility, Hydrogeology, February 25, 2016.

3. Observations

3.1 Water Quantity and Well Yields

The following bullets present my assessment of the status of data collection, data
interpretation, and model development. The assessment is based on the level of
project understanding typical of studies carried forward a step beyond pre-feasibility
investigations.

There is good definition of the overall geology and hydrostratigraphy in the


vicinity in the Majes Irrigation Area. The geophysical surveys have been
valuable, especially in estimating the depth to low-permeability basement
rocks and in identifying the lateral extent of the water table mound formed by
brackish water. Additional insight is required to the distribution of the
paleochannels cut into the Moquegua C unit. The channels are reportedly
infilled with lower-permeability sediments, and their distribution is likely to
affect local siting decisions for a multi-well supply system.

Although based on limited spatial coverage with piezometers, considering the


size of the study area, there is a reasonable definition of the groundwater flow
system in the Majes area. The three-dimensional groundwater model has
been valuable in this regard. The 2015 and 2016 synoptic stream surveys
provide important data to link the groundwater flow patterns in the vicinity of
the brackish water mound to groundwater discharge recorded in the Siguas
River.

The characterization of the pre-development groundwater flow system by


FloSolutions, corresponding to a time period for which no field data are
available, is considered a reasonable representation of the hydrogeologic
condition as it likely existed in the early 1980s.

The approaches to estimating groundwater recharge are sound, and yield


values of recharge consistent with my expectation. This comment applies to
both the estimate of natural recharge rates in this arid climate derived using

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Review of Operational Water Supply Option Zafranal Project DRAFT

the MIKE SHE model, and the excess recharge at Majes attributable to
irrigation practice.

The hydraulic conductivity of the key hydrostratigraphic units has been


characterized using pumping tests carried out in five wells; each test was
about 48 hours in duration. The material provided in the supplementary
PowerPoint slides indicates a detailed analysis has been completed of the data
obtained from each of these hydraulic tests. The data provide reasonable
definition of the character of the hydraulic conductivity variation within the
Moquegua C Formation.

There is a requirement for completing longer-term pumping tests to reliably


define the specific yield of the aquifer. This information will be key when
finalizing projections of the long-term water supply to complete feasibility
studies. Current estimates of the specific yield (drainable porosity) seem low.
For the longer tests, it is suggested that consideration be given to installing
several piezometers near each of the pumping wells that are tested. Data from
multiple piezometers will enhance the level of confidence that can be placed
in the estimate of specific yield. In my view, it has been sufficient to proceed
to this point in the site assessment using a specific yield estimate of 10%, but
further data support is required.

Simple water balance calculations completed by FloSolutions support the


presence of a large reservoir of brackish groundwater beneath the Majes
Irrigation Area (3 billion m3) that originated from irrigation of the fields at
Majes.

FloSolutions and DHI developed a three-dimensional, regional scale model of


groundwater flow. An overview of the results from the model study was
presented at the meeting. The model structure and the incorporation of
hydrogeologic detail reflect the current state of practice for large mining
projects in Peru. The FEFLOW platform is appropriate for the study. The
results that were presented are consistent with my anticipation of the system
response to groundwater withdrawals. The model appears to provide the
required basis for advancing feasibility studies on well yields and the
assessment of development impacts.

The case to be presented in the EIA would be strengthened if it incorporates a


quantitative discussion (with plots) that illustrates wetting front migration
and the growth of the groundwater mound following startup of the irrigation
system in 1983. This information should be able to be extracted from the
FEFLOW simulations, provided the numerical grid has sufficient resolution in
the vadose zone.

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Review of Operational Water Supply Option Zafranal Project DRAFT

The field evidence, and supporting data interpretation, suggests there is a


sufficient volume of water in the groundwater mound to meet project
requirements over a twenty-year time horizon, with production at a rate of
about 400 l/s. FloSolutions used a well-structured process to rank the
potential locations for construction of a well field. I concur with the statement
that the long-term yield from the proposed well field will not be significantly
impacted by improved irrigation efficiencies going forward; given the storage
volumes that have been built up within the mound and the expected ongoing
irrigation losses that are in excess of the mine water demand.

Sustainable yields from individual wells, determined from the 48 hour


pumping tests, provide an acceptable basis (at pre-feasibility) to estimate the
required number of wells installations that would be required for a total yield
of 400 l/s. This assessment will need to be refined during detailed planning of
the well field, once the site of the well field is finalized, and as operational
experience is obtained during well installation.

3.2 Water Quality

The field data demonstrates vertical and lateral variability in the salinity of the
groundwater beneath the Majes Irrigation Area. Several factors have been identified
to explain this variation; principally salinity variations in the pore waters infiltrating
downward through the vadose zone beneath the irrigation area and the presence of
lower-salinity groundwater in the deeper part of the aquifer associated with regional
groundwater flow or pre-development infiltration of water from the Siguas River.
The highest-salinity groundwater has been detected in association with deep
upwelling flows along major faults. The data hint this upward flow can occur
anywhere along the trace of the faults, it is not restricted to expression in the
streambed profiling along the Siguas River (eg. PZ-05, 13 mS/cm). Commented [DE1]: I dont think this is due to upwelling of
regional saline groundwater since the well is below the Majes
area and not in the discharge area of the river.
For external review, I anticipate it will be important to identify the importance of
evapoconcentration of pore waters in the shallow soils beneath the irrigation area, in
comparison to the dissolution of soluble salts in the sediments, when explaining the
origin of higher-salinity water in the groundwater mound (to demonstrate corporate
understanding of the origin of the brackish water). Confirming the characteristic
salinity of the pore water at a depth of 4 to 5 m below active irrigation areas could be
particularly helpful in verifying current thinking that evapoconcentration of
irrigation water is the principal cause of brackish water quality. Analysis of oxygen Commented [DE2]: Im not sure how we would do this at this
depth.
and deuterium isotope ratios in pore water in this depth range may also be helpful in
this regard. Any long-term variation in the source concentration of brackish water in
the soil profile could depend upon which of these two processes is dominant. This
insight might aid in the interpretation of the salinity variation through the brackish
water mound.

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Review of Operational Water Supply Option Zafranal Project DRAFT

To provide a clear explanation of salinity variations at Majes for the EIS document, it Commented [DE3]: We may never have a clear explanation
of the salinity variations considering the lack of input data which
will be helpful to assign representative ranges of pore water salinity to the different vary spatially salt contents in the surface prior to farming
water sources: irrigation water; infiltration water at a depth of 4 -5 m below ground (which were washed out), salt contents in the vadose zone and
saturated zone, irrigation rates over time, locations of
surface in active irrigation areas; pore water in the vicinity of the current water table canal/pipeline leakages, and contaminant fluxes from other
beneath the irrigation area; pore water at the estimated depth of the pre- sources such as sewage lagoons.
development water table; and background or regional water quality. I expect a Formatted: Highlight
substantive mixing zone of variable salinity at the contact between the excess Formatted: Highlight
irrigation water and the pre-development groundwater because the density
stratification is inherently unstable (denser water above fresher water). The field
data also show that less saline water reflecting pre-development conditions may be
locally-present near the base of the aquifer if a lower-permeability horizon within the
Moquegua C inhibits vertical migration of the brackish irrigation water (PB-29).
These factors add complexity to the interpretation of the salinity data; a simple model Formatted: Highlight
is unlikely to capture important elements of the variability. Commented [DE4]: A simple model is sometimes best when
the data set is limited.

In my view, additional work is required to understand the constraints that may be


placed on well field development due to salinity variations in the aquifer. In
particular:

The majority of the data on the lateral and vertical variability in salinity is Commented [DE5]: There is good correlation between the
based on air lift sampling (return water samples collected during drilling). ECs of the well and ECs from airlift testing. Most piezometers
correlate well with the airlift ECs but some show poor
The veracity of this data set could be challenged during project review, so development due to ingress of fresh water into the formation
independent support for the air-lift sample data could prove valuable. Water and difficulty with lifting 100m to surface.

samples collected at the end of pumping tests, and from piezometers with long Commented [DE6]: This is unlikely to give an accurate
estimate of the formation salinity due to stagnant water in the
well screens, represent vertically averaged concentrations, weighted toward well and density effects.
the open/screened borehole sections with highest permeability. While the Commented [DE7]: This would be more useful but costly and
broad picture of salinity variation can be established with the data on hand, very difficult considering the high lift would need a 4-inch
pump would need to do low flow pumping every 6m which is
there is a need to document how reliably the variability of EC values in the the length of the discharge pipes low flow sampling guidelines
brackish mound has been captured. Do correlations exist between the airlift say that the drawdown should not exceed 10 cm in the well
which could be hard to control. In low K zones it would also pull
samples and water samples taken in nearby piezometers with short well in water from above and below from the higher K zones hard
screens? It may also be possible to test the reliability of the existing data by to know exactly if this is occurring or not.
conducting electrical conductivity profiles in the five pumping wells that have Commented [DE8]: True but we are commonly limited by
budget and depth that the drilling rigs can explore. Normally the
been installed (under non-pumping conditions). If it is possible to carry out RC drill depth limit when advancing casing in these collapsing
low-flow profile sampling in these deep wells, this may also add confidence to formations is about 200-250m which doesnt get us to the fresh
water interface in many areas.
the data set. Alternately, electrical conductivity profiling in the wells under
pumping conditions may also be instructive in defining the EC profile with Commented [DE9]: True. The constraints are both financial
and social. There is also the belief that the NW side is generally
depth. lower in EC so its the opinion that its not good bang for the buck
to drill in this area.

The base of the brackish water zone in the groundwater mound has not been Commented [DE10]: Not exactly true. We have water
chemistry from Well No. 4, and several other piezometers in the
mapped in sufficient detail. Furthermore, the lateral distribution of brackish immediate area.
water northward from the southern end of Majes 1 is poorly defined due to Formatted: Highlight
constraints on drilling in that area. Considerable weight in the project Commented [DE11]: Well 5 has a salinity in the lower end of
evaluation is being placed on the salinity data collected from Well No. 5. What the saline aquifer range (i.e. 6 to 13 mS/cm). It is not that
anomalous an EC when considering the entire SW side. The big
is it about the local conditions around Well 5 that yield a vertical salinity question is why is the SE side so different compared to the NW
profile different from that seen at the other four wells? The Project needs to side?
Formatted: Highlight

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be able to answer this question. Even in a 10-day pumping test, only water Commented [DE12]: Agreed. We need to try to answer it but
we may never arrive at the real answer even if we spent a lot of
from the immediate vicinity of the well screen is recovered at the well head. money trying.
In my opinion, refined estimates are essential for the volume of brackish water
that meets a target value above say 6 mS/cm, in the area that has been Commented [DE13]: In our opinion it is impossible to do this
without a lot more drilling and well installations which would be
identified as the preferred location for development of the well field, to further very costly. I dont think we can model this effectively.
evaluate project viability. The initiative to obtain permission to install
piezometers along the Pan-American Highway is important in this regard. Commented [DE14]: If all three new well locations along the
Panam hwy all come up with high salinity (i.e. >6 mS/cm), would
the data set be sufficient to convince the regulators that the SW
Long-term pumping near the base of the brackish water zone could induce side is uniformly saline? In our opinion it would be.

upwelling of less saline groundwater, which would mix within the wellbore
and lead to a yield of water with lower salinity as time passes. The potential Commented [DE15]: We believe this to be low risk due to the
high downward flux of recharge water in comparison to
for an upward-induced flow needs to be addressed. In large part upward flow potential deep upwelling. Numerical modeling would help
is controlled the degree of vertical anisotropy in hydraulic conductivity. No assess this.
data has been collected to estimate the hydraulic conductivity in the vertical
direction; it will be lower than the value in the horizontal direction. In the first
instance, the potential for upwelling of less saline groundwater could be
examined using the FEFLOW model. For example, could it be shown that
upwelling is unlikely to be an issue over the life of the well field if the vertical
hydraulic conductivity was ten times lower than the horizontal hydraulic
conductivity? If upward flow of less saline water proves to be an issue, this
places greater emphasis on the need for data to define the base of the brackish
water zone.

4. Concluding Comments

The conceptual hydrogeologic model formulated to describe the development and


evolution of the brackish water mound beneath the Majes Irrigation Area is
defensible. The hydrostratigraphic model, estimates of hydraulic properties,
assumed recharge distribution and flow system characteristics are well-supported by
the data that has been collected. Both the data and the analysis support the view that
there is a sufficient supply of water in the groundwater mound to meet project
requirements over a twenty-year time horizon, with production at a rate of 400 l/s.

From a water yield perspective, the development plan outlined by FloSolutions is


well-structured. The numerical model adds confidence that with about 18 production
wells, the required supply can be developed from this aquifer in an area immediately
south of Majes 1. Furthermore, the anticipated magnitude of the impact on the Siguas
River is quantified.

From the perspective of the constraints that may be placed on project development
due to water quality, there is considerable uncertainty in the development plans due
to the limited data available to characterize the vertical and lateral distribution of
salinity in the brackish water mound. Concerns relate principally to the lack of data
to define the volume and spatial continuity of higher-salinity water in the region that
has been identified as the preferred location of the well field. I also consider it
important that data be collected on pore water salinity in the shallow soils beneath

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Review of Operational Water Supply Option Zafranal Project DRAFT

irrigated fields to aid in definition of the source zone concentrations for the brackish
water mound. These data could also prove valuable in interpreting salinity data
within the mound.