EPA Financial Requirements Could Slam Explorers


". . .explorers and miners [are] fighting mad."

The EPA's intention to propose regulations requiring hardrock mining companies to post financial assurance with the agency has got explorers and miners fighting mad.

During an environmental panel at the Northwest Mining Association meeting in Reno, National Mining Associate General Counsel Tammy Bridgeford accused the EPA of exaggerating "potential exposures and risk from modern mining operations."

The agency's CERCLA Financial Responsibility Initiative for the Hardrock Mining Industry is aimed at improving financial assurance for new and operating hardrock mines and for mine site cleanups. EPA contends it is spending "significant resources on environmental review and permitting of new and operating mines and on mine clean ups."

While well-funded mining operations have completed mine reclamation, the EPA claims, "there are many examples where mine operators have failed to make adequate financial provisions for closure costs and this has resulted in the abandonment of sites in unsafe and unacceptable environmental conditions. In these cases, state and federal agencies bear the financial burden of cleaning up the site."

The EPA chose hardrock mining as its first priority for developing financial responsibility requirements for Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), more commonly known as Superfund.

The agency contends "available information makes clear that, among industry classes, hardrock mining facilities represent the highest level of risk of injury to human health and the environment. In addition, there are significant financial implications of cleaning up hardrock mining sites as a result of past and potential future injuries to human health and the environment."

Explorationists in the audience said they could not handle more financial assurance requirements from federal and state agencies. Others suggested the additional burden of EPA financial guarantees could send mining projects and mining exploration to other countries.

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