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«U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Office of Water (4203) 401 M Street, SW Washington, DC 20460 HARDROCK MINING FRAMEWORK September 1997 September ...»

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EPA’s National Hardrock Mining Framework

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

Office of Water (4203)

401 M Street, SW

Washington, DC 20460


September 1997

September 1997


Table of Contents

1.0 Purpose and Organization of the Framework................................... 1

1.1 Purpose of the Hardrock Mining Framework.............................. 1

1.2 Why Develop an EPA National Mining Framework Now?.................... 1 1.2.1 Need For Program Integration................................... 1 1.2.2 The Environmental Impacts of Mining............................. 1

1.3 Goals of EPA’s Mining Framework..................................... 3

1.4 Guide to the Framework.............................................. 3

2.0 Current Status.......................................................... 3

2.1 Overview of Regulatory Framework for Mining............................ 3

2.2 EPA Statutory Authority............................................. 4

2.3 Partnerships....................................................... 6

3.0 Improving How We Do Business........................................... 7

3.1 Key Considerations................................................. 7

3.2 Recommendations.................................................. 8

4.0 Implementation Actions................................................. 10

4.1 Putting the Framework into Action..................................... 10

4.2 Next Steps....................................................... 11

5.0 Introduction to the Appendices............................................. 11 Appendices A. Profile of the Mining Industry B. Potential Environmental Impacts of Hardrock Mining C. Regulatory and Non-Regulatory Tools D. Other Federal Programs E. Summary of State Programs

–  –  –

1.0 Purpose and Organization of the Framework

1.1 Purpose of the Hardrock Mining Framework This Framework has been developed to help the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) implement a multi-media, multi-statute approach to dealing with the environmental concerns posed by hardrock mining. Although the Framework focuses on understanding and improving the use of existing EPA authorities it does so with a clear recognition of the role of other parties. Building effective working relationships with other mining stakeholders is a key element of EPA's efforts to improve the effectiveness of its own programs.

In developing the Framework, EPA invited input from a number of mining stakeholders, including other Federal agencies, States, Tribes, local government, industry, and environmental groups. The final Framework presented here reflects many of the ideas provided by these groups on two earlier drafts.

For the purposes of the Framework, mining refers to proposed, active, and inactive and abandoned mines (IAMs) and mills from the metal, phosphate, uranium, and industrial mineral sectors; it does not include coal mining, crushed stone quarrying and mining, or aggregate mining.

1.2 Why develop an EPA National Mining Framework Now?

1.2.1 Need For Program Integration Environmental policies are increasingly focusing on integrating media protection (air, water, and land) and emphasizing multi-statute education, research, permitting, and enforcement to more effectively implement single-media statutes mandated by Congress. For example, EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance (OECA) has developed a number of industry profiles (including a Profile of the Metal Mining Industry) to encourage an integrated approach towards designing environmental policies for facilities within an industrial sector.

As the Agency faces increasing demands on limited resources, it becomes even more critical that EPA continue to manage its responsibilities efficiently, including those related to mining. The collective experience of EPA Regional offices and Headquarters in addressing the environmental concerns posed by mining should be shared and serve as a basis for development of consistent Agency policies for mine sites.

1.2.2 The Environmental Impacts of Mining

Mining has played a significant role in the development of this country. The industry has, and continues to be, an important contributor to both national and regional economies and is critical to national defense (See Appendix A). Mining, and the industries it supports, are among the basic building blocks of a modern society.

September 1997 1


The benefits of mining to this country have been many, but have come at a cost to the environment.

As the country has matured there has been increasing recognition that environmental protection is as fundamental to a healthy economy and society as is development. The challenge is to simultaneously promote both economic growth and environmental protection.

The historic impacts of mining on the environment are significant. While estimates vary it is generally recognized that there are over 200,000 inactive and abandoned mines (IAMs) nationwide. Only a fraction of these are believed to contribute significantly to environmental problems, but the aggregate impact is substantial and in specific cases there are serious localized environmental impacts (see Appendix B).

A 1993 survey by the U.S. Forest Service estimates that 5,000 to 10,000 miles of streams and rivers are impacted by acid drainage from mines on National Forests. The U.S. Geological Survey estimates that over 60 million tons of contaminated sediment cover the bottom of Lake Coeur d'Alene in northern Idaho as a result of historic mining in the Coeur d'Alene mining district. There are approximately 60 mine, or mining related, sites on the Superfund National Priorities List (NPL).

Identifying, prioritizing, and implementing necessary cleanup actions at IAMs across the country is expected to take many years. Much of the cleanup cost will likely be borne by the public.

As mines have increased in size and complexity, environmental controls have become increasingly sophisticated. Mine operating plans must address stringent water quality standards, increased emphasis on protection of endangered species, requirements for mitigation of habitat losses, and concerns about long term reclamation and closure. Modern mines are required to more fully evaluate environmental concerns at the earliest stages of mine planning and design. Environmental controls are now considered as an integral part of overall mine management.

In recent years environmental practices employed by the mining industry have improved considerably.

Installation of Best Management Practices (BMPs) for control of storm water runoff, improvements in treatment of wastewater, better management of tailings and wasterock, and more efficient metal recovery technologies have all contributed to reduced environmental impacts from mining projects.

However, in spite of these improvements, nearly 20 percent of the mining facilities inspected by EPA and the States between August 1990 and August 1995 were subject to enforcement actions. About 90 percent of the actions involved the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act, or the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act. Acid mine drainage and acid drainage from waste rock and tailings disposal areas continue to create environmental concerns at some sites. A number of mines that were designed to be zero discharge are now coming to regulatory agencies requesting discharge permits.

The Summitville Mine in Colorado is perhaps the best known example of a modern mine with significant environmental problems; the cleanup costs for this site are expected to be over $100 million.

On August 16, 1994, EPA’s former Deputy Administrator Robert Sussman convened a Senior EPA Management retreat to discuss Agency activities regarding hardrock mining. This meeting was used to identify key questions the Agency must face in addressing environmental and human health concerns and improving EPA’s program delivery. Attendees included several Assistant September 1997 2


Administrators and Regional Administrators. In an October 17, 1994 memorandum, Deputy Administrator Sussman directed the Office of Water (OW) to lead a multi-program, crossorganizational workgroup to draft an Agency-wide mining framework. The workgroup was comprised of staff from the Regions, Office of General Counsel (OGC), Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response (OSWER), Office of Enforcement Compliance and Assurance (OECA), and other affected programs.

1.3 Goals of EPA’s Mining Framework

In developing this Framework EPA began with three principal goals. First was environmental protection. EPA’s environmental goal is to protect human health and the environment through appropriate and timely pollution prevention, control, and remediation at proposed, active, and inactive and abandoned mine and mill sites (on both Federal and non-Federal land, consistent with Agency statutory authorities). The Agency’s administrative goal is to foster efficient use of available resources and authorities on the highest priority concerns, using a multi-media/multi-statute geographic approach (watershed), and working closely with other Federal, State, Tribal, and local stakeholders. Finally, EPA is seeking to promote fiscal responsibility in managing environmental concerns at mine sites. This goal includes efforts to promote cost effective environmental controls at existing facilities, as well as historic mining sites. The need to minimize both current and future environmental and fiscal costs borne by the public provides a backdrop for each of these three goals.

1.4 Guide to the Framework

This EPA Hardrock Mining Framework is intended primarily to assist EPA staff in implementing an effective multi-media/multi-statute mining program. It was developed by a diverse group of EPA geologists, engineers, scientists, researchers, economists, and others to identify important issues in the mining sector, and to suggest improvements in how EPA does its business.

The Framework is divided into two parts. This first section (Chapters 1-5) provides a brief problem statement, then focuses on how EPA can improve its mining program. The second section of the Framework is a set of Appendices that provide the reader with a more thorough discussion of specific issues that provide greater context for the Framework’s recommendations.

2.0 Current Status

2.1 Overview of Regulatory Framework for Mining Regulation of mining activities occurs via a complex web of sometimes overlapping jurisdictions, laws, and regulations covering several environmental media. Land ownership and tenancy issues further complicate regulatory issues. Each mine faces a somewhat unique set of regulatory requirements, depending upon State statute or regulation; whether it is on State, Federal, Tribal, or private land; local regulations; the kind of mining and metal recovery operation proposed; and the specific environmental considerations unique to the site.

September 1997 3


States and Tribes have often been leaders in mining regulation. While no federal legislation specifically addressing the environmental impacts of mining has been passed, many States have established their own statutory programs. In addition, all States have general environmental statutes that provide coverage to mining operations. Many states have been authorized to implement federal environmental programs, such as the hazardous waste program under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) and the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) program under the Clean Water Act (CWA). The role of States and Tribes in mining regulation cannot be overstated; it is imperative that EPA understand these programs in order to improve its own program implementation (see Appendix E).

There are a number of statutes and associated regulatory programs that govern Federal land management programs as well as the disposition of minerals on federal lands. Through the 1872 Mining Law, Congress has encouraged the development of mineral resources on Federal lands for well over a century. In the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976 Congress provided that the Bureau of Land Management is to take any action necessary to prevent unnecessary or undue degradation of Bureau-administered lands. Federal land management agencies recognize the legitimacy of mining on Federal land and administer claims consistent with environmental statutes and agency regulations. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM), U.S. Forest Service (FS), U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), National Park Service (NPS), Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), Bureau of Reclamation (BR), Office of Surface Mining (OSM), and Departments of Energy (DOE) and Defense (DOD) all play a role in influencing environmental outcomes at mine sites where they have ownership or jurisdiction (see Appendix D).

2.2 EPA Statutory Authority

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