7.20 Awards for the USA's contribution to pollution prevention
The USA's Denver office and Cripple Creek & Victor Gold Mining Company (CC&V) both received Pollution Prevention (P2) Awards in February 2004 as special recognition for the development of an effective pollution prevention programme in accordance with the Colorado Mining Association's (CMA) Pollution Prevention Code of Practice. The award is endorsed by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) and has been recognised by the US Environmental Protection (EPA) Agency through a 2003 Friend of EPA
The award-winning P2 programmes instituted by both the Denver office and CC&V were designed to exceed the requirements of the CMA P2 protocols that deal with chemical management, container (packaging) management, and conservation, recycling, and re-use of waste materials.
The prevention of environmental pollution is of considerable interest in the United States. In 1998, the EPA expanded the Toxic Release Inventory (TRI) programme to include mining and six other industrial sectors. Facilities in the TRI programme are required to report annually on the type and quantities of over 640 different chemicals 'released' to the environment. The TRI program has been used to encourage the reduction in releases and advise the public of potentially hazardous chemicals in their communities.
Says Scott Lewis, (manager environment, USA), "Although these are laudable objectives, the TRI programme was not created with mining in mind. The programme requires that mines quantify and publish reports on 'releases' of TRI-listed chemicals, including those naturally occurring metals in rock (for example, copper, manganese, zinc) that is excavated and moved. The inclusion of even small quantities of naturally occurring TRI-listed metals in rock results in significantly large 'release' numbers at a typical surface mine given the large tonnage of material that is moved. For simplicity and accounting purposes, the TRI programme also assumes that the rock disintegrates and releases all of its metals in the year of placement and we know from observation and experience that this weathering process typically requires decades or centuries, or longer, to release the elemental constituents in rock, if it actually occurs at all.
"The inclusion of naturally occurring metals in rock in the TRI programme has resulted in CC&V being at or near the top of the list of reported 'releases' in Colorado since entering the programme in 1998.
"Applying standard pollution prevention at mines to reduce these 'releases' is difficult at best. The only real way to reduce reported 'releases' associated with waste rock is either to modify the mining methodology from surface to underground or to stop mining. Obviously, neither option is appropriate or feasible. As such, CMA worked with CDPHE to develop a P2 programme that takes into account the excellent work being done at mines to reduce or prevent pollution."
The P2 Code developed by CMA and the programmes implemented by the USA operations highlight the many positive features of the initiatives that have been voluntarily adopted and helps to put TRI reporting into perspective.