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Comments needed from small-scale miners and assayers on proposed EPA mercury rule

June 3, 2010

Back on April 19, 2010, we posted an article regarding EPA's proposed rule to regulate mercury emissions from gold mining operations. 

EPA has now issued its proposed rule, and based on the results it appears that limited or no input was received from small-scale miners and assayers. In order to prevent a major headache, it's imperative that you take a few minutes to send in your comments.

Our Associate Editor, Chris Ralph, had this to say about the proposed rule:

The definition of a subject facility is set so that if you process any “gold ore” (including gravels) and use certain processes, you are subject to the regulations and must comply with the requirements. Most of those processes are used only by large mining operations which do have a potential to emit significant mercury. However, one of those processes is a “melt furnace” and because it is defined as a furnace to melt gold-bearing material from “other process” (unspecified), a strict reading would require compliance from assay labs that do column and bottle leach testing (because they do have melt furnaces), placer operators who melt their fines into bars before they ship to a refiner, small hard rock mines that melt their gold into bars before they ship to a refiner, and even individual prospectors who melt their gold into bars before they ship to a refiner—technically, all of these would be subject. These other types of operations emit essentially zero mercury, and there is no need to control them.

Note that there is no minimum emission rate to be an area source. You can emit essentially zero mercury and still be an “area source.”

The cost to comply with these rules will be substantial. Compliance requires that you obtain a federal Title V air quality permit. These costs would not be excessive to a large heap leach operator with significant production, but would be excessive to small operators who will be sucked into compliance with this rule because of the poorly worded definition of a gold processing facility.

View Chris Ralph's comments in pdf format

View EPA's proposed rule.

Comments must be submitted on or before June 28, 2010.

Comments need to be identified by Docket ID No. EPA EPA-HQ-OAR-2010-0239.

Comments can be sent by several different methods:
By email to:
Fax to:: (202) 566-1741
Mail to: Air and Radiation Docket and Information Center
            Environmental Protection Agency
            Mailcode: 6102T
            1200 Pennsylvania Ave NW
            Washington, DC 20460

Please send a second copy to Chuck French:
By email:
By fax: (919) 541-3207
By mail:
             Mr. Chuck French
             Metals and Minerals Group
             Sectors Policies and Programs Division (D243-02), US EPA
             Research Triangle Park, NC 27711

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