Friday, December 17, 2010

NESHAP Mercury Limits For Mining and Processing of Gold Ore

On December 16, 2010, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) promulgated National Emissions Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAP) for gold ore processing and production facilities, the seventh largest source of mercury air emission in the US.EPA estimates the final rule will reduce mercury emissions by 1,460 pounds per year, or about a 77 percent reduction from 2007 levels.

There are more than 20 gold ore processing facilities in the US; some facilities in Nevada, including some of the largest gold ore processing facilities, have already made progress toward the proposed reductions under the Nevada Mercury Air Emissions Control Program, which requires controls at precious metal mining facilities.

The final rule establishes mercury emissions limits for four types of processes found at gold production facilities: ore-pretreatment processes; carbon processes with mercury retorts; carbon processes without mercury retorts; and non-carbon concentrate processes. The final emissions limits are based on the existing emissions level of the best-performing U.S. facilities, which are well-controlled for mercury. At full implementation, these limits are estimated to reduce mercury emissions by 0.73 tons per year from current emissions levels.

The Clean Air Act requires EPA to identify and, develop regulations for, the sources of 90 percent of the air emissions of seven pollutants known as persistent, bioaccumulative pollutants. The seven pollutants are: mercury, alkylated lead compounds, polycyclic organic matter (POM), hexachlorobenzene, polychlorinatedbiphenyls (PCBs), 2,3,7,8- tetrachlorodibenzofurans (TCDF) and 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (TCDD). EPA identified gold processing and production as one of these sources in 2008.

Caltha LLP provides specialized expertise to clients nationwide in the evaluation environmental rules, compliance with NESHAP and other air emission requirements requirements, and preparing cost-effective EH&S management programs.

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