ADELLA HARDING Mining Correspondent
Gold mining places Nevada at the top of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s 2020 toxic release inventory nationwide, as well as at the top of Nevada’s TRI release list, according to the latest figures from the EPA.
Nevada ranks first out of 56 states and territories nationwide based on total releases per square mile, an EPA Nevada TRI 2020 Emissions Fact Sheet, and Nevada Gold Mines Operations are at the top of Nevada’s list.
For the entire United States, there were just over 3 billion pounds released or otherwise disposed of, while Nevada’s share was 464.79 million pounds, according to the EPA’s national TRI analysis.
Nationally, TRI releases were down 10% from 2019, the EPA reported.
The EPA’s list for Nevada shows the Goldstrike mine north of Carlin owned by Nevada Gold Mines ranked first, with total onsite and offsite disposal or other releases of just over 220.35 million of books.
NGM, a joint venture of Barrick Gold Corp. and Newmont Corp., with Barrick as operator and 61.5% owner, is the state’s largest gold producer, and the top four on Nevada’s list are NGM operations.
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“We hold ourselves to high standards of environmental performance across all Barrick and NGM operations and our focus on ESG is fundamental to our business strategy. We are committed to continuous improvement and strive to achieve the highest quality of waste management and encourage recycling,” Nevada Gold Mines executive general manager Greg Walker said in a March 8 email. .
Over the years, mining companies have expressed concern that high numbers for metal mines include tailings facilities that sit on site and are then reclaimed, which could be misleading.
“It is important to note that TRI data alone does not indicate whether the environment or the public is exposed to any of the chemicals listed,” said Greg Lovato, administrator of the protection division of the Nevada environment.
He said the NDEP “implements state laws and regulations that require all operating mines in Nevada to meet rigorous licensing, monitoring and inspection standards to protect the environment. and public health.
“In Nevada, safe management practices are required and enforced for all aspects of engineering design, permitting, and construction of ore and waste rock facilities to ensure robust protection of natural resources and communities. of Nevada,” Lovato said in the TRI announcement in early March. of the EPA Pacific Southwest region.
NGM’s statement says that while TRI refers to the release of chemicals, the releases reported by NGM are largely in the form of rocks being physically moved from place to place and “are not releases at all.” , but simply a storage of rocks”.
The company also said that Barrick and NGM handle waste rock and tailings with care and responsibility, and that practices meet international standards, including guidelines from the International Council on Mining and Metals and the Mining Association of Canada.
The company wrote that NGM’s standard “defines how we manage our tailings storage facilities from location and design through operation and closure. In addition, NGM is required to comply with state-approved waste rock management plans and must dispose of its tailings in lined impoundments designed to meet environmental protection and safety standards.
Although the number of metal mines reporting to TRI represents only a small portion of the total number of facilities reporting to TRI, the sector accounted for 45% of all reported releases for 2020 nationwide, according to the EPA. .
The EPA indicates in a summary on metal mining that by far most releases of TRI chemicals reported from metal mining facilities are onsite disposals to land, although the products TRI chemicals are also released on site to air and water and are transferred outside. Site disposal locations, as well.
For example, releases to air occur in the form of “fugitive emissions” such as chemicals in dust created on site, and stack emissions, including chemicals in collected dust that passes through a air pollution device.
Martha Guzman, Administrator of the EPA’s Pacific Southwest Region, said the EPA’s new enhancements to the TRI report show “continued improvement in the ability of Nevada communities to access data crucial. The TRI report also underscores the need for EPA and our Nevada partners to continue to work together as stewards of the environment and protectors of public health.
The EPA’s TRI website includes explanations of different aspects of mining to show how tailings are generated, such as blasting, ore hauling, waste rock, crushing and milling, concentrators, leaching pads, metals recovery, tailings containment and products.
“The EPA provides information to help explain the data reported by the metal mining industry on our Toxic Release Inventory Program website. The site features an interactive graphic, which was developed with input from stakeholders, explaining how metal mines operate and generally how and where TRI-listed chemical releases occur,” said Joshua Alexander, EPA Southwest Region Spokesperson. of the Pacific.
“For Nevada in 2020, 26 of the state’s 142 reporting facilities — representing nearly 97% of all versions of Nevada’s TRI — were mining operations,” he said in an email.
The 142 operations monitored in Nevada range from gold mines and the Robinson Copper-Gold Mine in Ely to power plants, military installations, dairy farms and more, including zero-emissions operations.
After the Goldstrike mine, the second highest emissions came from NGM’s Turquoise Ridge complex northeast of Golconda at just over 77.31 million pounds. The complex includes the Twin Creeks mine and mill and the Turquoise Ridge underground mine.
NGM’s South Carlin area, six miles north of Carlin, is third with just over 45.72 million pounds, followed by NGM’s Cortez mines near Crescent Valley, with 39.72 million pounds of tailings .
Kinross Gold’s Round Mountain Mine in Nye County, also called Smoky Valley Common Operation, is next at just under 22.67 million pounds, followed by NGM’s Phoenix Mine south of Battle Mountain, 16, 53 million pounds, and the Robinson Nevada Mining Co. operations in Ruth, at almost 15.11 million pounds.
US Ecology Nevada Inc., which operates a hazardous waste landfill 12 miles south of Beatty, followed with nearly 6.99 million pounds, and next on the list is the Rochester Heart Mine near Lovelock, 4, 92 million pounds.
Kinross Gold’s southern zone at the Bald Mountain mine in White Pine County is 10th on the list with 3.35 million pounds, and the main Bald Mountain site is 12th with just over 2.58 million pounds .
Safety-Kleen Systems Inc. of Fallon is in 11th place with almost 3.15 million pounds, and EMD Acquisition LLC of Henderson is 13th with just over 2.47 million pounds, followed by the Marigold Mine of SSR Mining in Valmy, 1.14 million pounds and that of NGM. Long Canyon mine near Wells, 976,437 pounds.
First Majestic Silver’s Jerritt Canyon mine north of Elko had 551,776 pounds of emissions in 2020 and Titanium Metals Corp. of Henderson had 409,545 pounds, followed by the Tesla Gigafactory in Sparks, 332,812 pounds.
NGM’s TS power station in Dunphy posted 34,539 pounds in 2020 for 26th place on the list. NGM is adding solar power to the plant as part of its efforts to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.