December 4, 2017

EPA kicks financial assurances for mines to the curb

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USEPA

Entrance to the Gold King Mine. Photo via Environmental Protection Agency

Last week, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced it will not issue final regulations requiring mining companies to prove before beginning work that they have the financial means to clean up pollution from their mines. The agency has decided the regulations are not “appropriate.”

According to a statement from the agency, Administrator Scott Pruitt said the requirements were unnecessary.

“After careful analysis of public comments, the statutory authority, and the record for this rulemaking, EPA is confident that modern industry practices, along with existing state and federal requirements address risks from operating hardrock mining facilities,” Pruitt said.  “Additional financial assurance requirements are unnecessary and would impose an undue burden on this important sector of the American economy and rural America, where most of these mining jobs are based.”

Last year, the Obama administration issued a draft rule, which garnered more than 11,000 public comments. Hardrock mines include metals like copper, iron and lead.

The agency concluded that modern mining technology doesn’t present so much of a risk to warrant “imposition” of financial requirements for hardrock mining companies.

The state of New Mexico estimates there are more than 15,000 abandoned mines in the state. There are thousands more upstream of New Mexico’s rivers, including the Gold King Mine in Colorado.

The agency’s rule summary is online at: https://www.epa.gov/superfund/final-action-financial-responsibility-requirements-under-cercla-section-108b-classes

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