EPA Requires Nevada Gold Mining Companies to Correct Reporting Violations
WASHINGTON – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) settled with three gold mining companies, all subsidiaries of Barrick Gold Corporation, for failing to correctly report toxic chemical releases and waste management activities as required by the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA).
“The Toxic Release Inventory program is a vital tool for tracking toxic releases across the country, providing transparency about chemicals in communities,” said Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. “The program is undermined if companies do not report or misreport the use or release of chemicals at their facilities.”
The companies, Barrick Cortez, Inc., Barrick Gold US, Inc. and Homestake Mining Company, agreed to pay a total of $278,000 in penalties and spend an additional $340,000 to conduct an environmentally beneficial project.
The violations involved incorrect reporting under the federal Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA) at the Cortez Gold Mine near Crescent Valley, the Ruby Hill Gold Mine near Eureka, and the Bald Mountain Gold Mine near the Ruby Lake National Wildlife Refuge, all in Nevada.
After EPA inspectors analyzed the mines’ records they found that the facilities failed to submit timely, complete and correct Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) reports in 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2008, for toxic chemicals. These chemicals include cyanide compounds used to extract gold from the ore mined at the facilities, and lead and mercury compounds produced during the extraction process. Under the settlement, the Barrick gold companies will audit and correct their TRI reports for 2005 through 2011 to comply with EPCRA. There is no evidence to suggest that the violations posed any immediate danger to workers at the facilities or local communities.
The agreement requires a $340,000 supplemental environmental project at the Cortez mine to identify the metal compounds formed in its oxide mill process. The gold companies will also perform audits at other Barrick facilities in the U.S. (in Nevada and Montana), correct reporting violations, if any, and pay a $10,000 penalty per violation, not to exceed $250,000.
Under EPCRA, facilities that manufacture, process, or use toxic chemicals over certain quantities must file annual reports estimating the amounts released to the environment, treated or recycled on-site, or transferred off-site for waste management. These reports are submitted to EPA and the State or Tribe with jurisdiction over the facility. EPA compiles this information into a national TRI database and makes it available to the public.
Metal ore mining accounts for 98 percent of total TRI releases reported to EPA in Nevada. This investigation and enforcement are part of an ongoing national effort that began in 2008 to ensure that gold mining facilities are in compliance, and that the public has accurate and complete information about the facilities in their community. Barrick gold mining facilities in the U.S. produced approximately 3.38 million ounces (105.6 tons) of gold in 2011, and the Cortez Gold Mine is the second largest gold mine in the world.
More information on the Toxics Release Inventory: http://www.epa.gov/tri
EPA’s environmental databases, including TRI data, can be accessed at: http://www.epa.gov/enviro