EPA's Activities On Mining Waste

Denit, Jeffery ; Hoffman, Steve ; Housman, Van
Organization: Society for Mining, Metallurgy & Exploration
Pages: 3
Publication Date: Jan 1, 1992
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is in the early stages of developing a national mining waste program. Our goal is to develop a mining waste program that will be state implemented, multimedia in nature, flexible, utilize and enhance existing state programs, and protect the environment. The Agency appreciates the cooperation the mining industry is providing through its participation in the Policy Dialogue committee on Mining and by providing the Agency with technical data. The following is a discussion of what led to the development of a national mining waste program, the agenda initiative to evaluate Toxic Substances Control Act authority in phosphate manufacturing, and the important steps being taken through the Policy Dialogue process to frame and discuss issues. EXTRACTION AND BENEFICIATION OF ORES The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act of 1976 (RCRA) and subsequent amendments created a framework for the regulation of hazardous wastes under Subtitle C and nonhazardous waste under Subtitle D. In 1978, initial regulations were proposed for hazardous waste management units under RCRA. These identified a universe of special wastes that were large volume, low hazard and less amenable to Subtitle C control techniques. EPA noted that waste materials from the "extraction, beneficiation and processing of ores and minerals m fit these criteria. In October 1980, Section 3001 of RCRA was amended. This Bevill amendment excluded solid waste from the extraction, beneficiation and processing of ores and minerals from regulatory control under RCRA's hazardous waste Subtitle C. This was done pending a report to Congress and a regulatory determination regarding the Subtitle C status of these wastes. Thus in November 1980, EPA published an interim final amendment to the RCRA Subtitle C regulations to reflect the Bevill amendment. RCRA requires EPA to perform studies and make reports to Congress regarding the management methods and potential hazards of managing waste. RCRA also calls for a regulatory determination regarding whether Subtitle C (hazardous) or D (non- hazardous) controls are warranted for these wastes. In December 1985, EPA submitted a report to congress entitled, “Wastes from the Extraction and Beneficiation of Metallic Ores, Phosphate Rock, Asbestos, Overburden from Uranium Mining and Oil Shale." In that report, EPA found that some mining wastes exhibit hazardous characteristics, that the range of risk from mining waste is broad, and that waste management practices have caused environmental damage. In July 1986, EPA published a regulatory determination based on information gathered in the 1985 report to Congress and comments from interested parties. In the report, EPA concluded that RCRA Subtitle C regulation of extraction and beneficiation wastes was unwarranted because mining wastes tend to be disposed of in arid climates, waste volumes are high, and facilities and wastes are located in sparsely
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