The Environmental Protection Agency released its annual Toxics Release Inventory for 2011 and has been the case for year, the metal mining industry has the highest releases.
The metal mining industry self-reported the release of 1.9 billion pounds of toxic chemicals in 2011. This represented 46 percent of all toxic pollution reported.
This year environmentalists are using the annual report to put the spotlight on the eventual clean-up bill for these toxics. The EPA was court-ordered in 2009 to issue financial assurance requirements for metal miners under the authority of the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act.
EPA postponed the draft rule release date until 2014, to the chagrin of environmentalists. The requirements would require mines to provide bonds to show they had the money to pay for cleanup after they close. Idaho is one of the states that does not require bonds for underground mines.
So Earthworks’ Northwest Circuit Rider Bonnie Gestring suggests Idaho could be on the hook for $100 million in cleanup costs if Hecla’s Lucky Friday silver mine closes, something that certainly isn’t going to happen before 2014 since silver prices are high.
Hecla reported 17 million pounds of toxic releases at Lucky Friday. Here is the EPA page for Hecla’s Lucky Friday mine.
More than 500 mines are listed in the EPA’s CERCLA program, with an estimated $50 billion potential liability to the taxpayers.