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Issues & Policy

Air Quality

Air Emissions

Reducing or eliminating air emissions is another important aspect of managing the environmental impact of mines, and one of particular importance to the local stakeholders who live near our mines.

Air Quality

Air quality permits are obtained from regulatory agencies before ground is broken on any mining project. Mining companies submit substantial studies identifying the potential sources of emissions and the equipment that will be use to control them.

Mining operations can generate dust from mining and mineral processing operations and associated truck traffic, releasing particulates, nitrous oxide, sulfur dioxide, and carbon monoxide from the equipment used to mine and process ore minerals. These emissions can generate smog and other forms of air pollution that may impact local air quality.

Mercury Emmissions

Processes used to remove gold from ore can result in the release of mercury contained in the ore Controlling mercury emissions from gold mining has been the objective of a major partnership between the gold industry and federal and state government agencies.

After findings of mercury's negative effect on the environment, four mining companies, Barrick, Newmont, Placer Dome and Independence, sat down with the US EPA and the Nevada Division of Environmental Protection (NDEP) to discuss how to reduce atmospheric mercury emissions. Together, they developed the Voluntary Mercury Air Emissions Reduction Program (VMRP). This voluntary approach allowed companies to find the right individual balance between reduction in emissions, and the remaining life of older facilities to implement such controls.

In 2006, the industry worked with the NDEP to develop a mandatory mercury control program. The Nevada Mercury Control Program established a process to determine and implement Maximum Achievable Control Technology (MACT) for all thermal sources at mining operations by 2011.

Today, many companies have already implemented MACT.

Company Practices

Most air emissions are regulated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency under its ambient air-quality standards. Best practices at mine sites involve evaluating the level of likely emissions, taking steps to reduce or eliminate them through the use of management practices or technical controls, and monitoring the sources from which they may be generated to ensure compliance with regulatory standards. The table below shows common practices used to control emissions.

Management Practices: Air Emissions

 

Dust

Nitrous Oxide

Sulfur Oxide

Carbon Monoxide

Source

Haul trucks, crushers, conveyors, stockpiles, and blasting

Diesel engines in heavy equipment at plants and mills

Diesel engines in heavy equipment at plants and mills

Diesel engines in heavy equipment

Management Practices

  • Applying water to roads
  • Use of dust collection systems and mist sprays at point sources
  • Chemical surfactants
  • New Tier 2 diesel engines and lower sulfur diesel
  • Emissions from diesel engines are reduced by catalytic control systems, effective preventive and repair maintenance to keep engines running at high efficiency and ensure pollution control features operating, use of computerized fleet management and routing systems using real time GPS data to reduce fuel consumption, and effective haul road maintenance that reduces fuel consumption.
  • Filters, scrubbers, and other pollution control devices at processing facilities.

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