Toxic chemical releases have increased 16 percent due to mining firms, according to the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA's) findings Thursday, following years of decline.
"The increase from 2009 to 2010 in disposal or other releases could be due to a change in the composition of raw materials used at facilities, for example, a change in the chemical composition of ore bodies at metal mines," The EPA said in its 2010 Toxic Release inventory (TRI) Analysis. "Other possible reasons for an increase include changes in management methods, changes in release estimation methods, changes in production, increases in chemical use, or an economic change."
According to a statement released yesterday from the National Mining Association, there has been an increased demand for US metals in line with the economic recovery. Metal mining accounted for 41 percent of disposal or other releases in 2010; the 1.6 million pounds of toxic releases in the sector grew 43 percent that year.
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"Nearly all -- 85 to 99 percent (by volume) -- of the substances reported by mining operations occur naturally in the local rock and soil and remain in low concentrations in the large amount of material handled and managed at specially designed on-site facilities permitted and regulated by state and federal laws," the NMA said. "Because these naturally occurring trace amounts are covered by TRI, mining operations make up a large portion of the releases to land for on-site management that were reported by all operations in 2010."
The good news: annual results may contradict long term trends. Total releases and disposals in 2010 are significantly lower than they were ten years ago. Many firms doing more in terms of managing, recycling and treating production-related waste. However, preventing the amount of toxic waste generated in the first place is another story.