US EPA Acts to Control Mercury From Gold Mines

For Immediate Release

Organization Profile: 
Contact: 

Jim Pew, Earthjustice, (202) 667-4500, ext. 214
Jane Williams, Sierra Club, (661) 510-3412
Justin Hayes, Idaho Conservation League, (208) 345-6933, ext. 24

US EPA Acts to Control Mercury From Gold Mines

But fails to protect public from cyanide and other toxic mine emissions

WASHINGTON - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has issued long overdue emission standards
for the toxic pollution emitted by gold mining companies’ ore
processing facilities. The new control requirements will provide
significant reductions in gold mines mercury emissions, but regrettably
fail to provide exposed communities with any protection from cyanide,
arsenic and other toxic chemicals these plants emit in great volume.

Jane Williams, Chair of the Sierra Club National Air Toxics
Taskforce, lives near a proposed gold mine to be located between
Rosamond and Mojave, CA.

"EPA deserves credit for finally putting limits on the amount of
mercury that gold mines emit," said Williams. "Mercury is a highly
potent neurotoxin that can cause birth defects and developmental damage
in infants and children, even at very low exposure levels. But the EPA
has done nothing about toxic emissions from gold mines’ open leach piles
and nothing about their emissions of cyanide and other poisons. EPA’s
failure to require gold mines to fully control their pollution will have
horrific health impacts on this community when the new plant starts
up."

"The EPA’s new rule is critically important to protecting the health
of our children from mercury poisoning," said Justin Hayes, Program
Director with the Idaho Conservation League. "By directing this industry
to install devices to reduce their mercury emissions, the EPA is
ensuring that the health of our kids is finally going to be placed ahead
of corporate profits. Yes, it will cost the gold the companies a little
extra money—but it is affordable, and our kids are worth it."

Sierra Club, represented by Earthjustice, obtained a court-ordered
deadline for this rule after EPA missed the statutory deadline. Sierra
Club and Earthjustice also submitted comments on the proposed rule EPA
issued earlier this year, urging EPA to set standards for all the
hazardous air pollutants that gold mines emit, control emissions from
open leach piles, and strengthen its mercury standards.

"EPA and Obama administration have made impressive commitments to
protect communities from toxic pollution and to respect science and the
law," said Earthjustice toxics attorney Jim Pew. "Limiting gold mines’
mercury emissions is a step in the right direction. Doing nothing to
control the emissions from gold mines’ leach piles and allowing
unlimited emissions of cyanide and other toxins lets communities down,
ignores science, and violates the Clean Air Act."

According to the EPA, there are more than 20 gold mine ore processing
facilities in the U.S., in the states of Nevada, Alaska, Montana,
California, Washington and Colorado. These facilities extract gold by
crushing and cooking vast quantities of rock and earth that contain
minute amounts of gold.

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Earthjustice is a non-profit public interest law firm dedicated to protecting the magnificent places, natural resources, and wildlife of this earth, and to defending the right of all people to a healthy environment. We bring about far-reaching change by enforcing and strengthening environmental laws on behalf of hundreds of organizations, coalitions and communities.

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