EPA Takes on Gold Production, Cuts Mercury Emissions by 70 Percent

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is proposing to cut emissions from gold ore processing and production facilities (pdf), the sixth largest source of mercury air emissions in the country.

The National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants proposal under the Clean Air Act would reduce annual mercury emissions to about 1,390 pounds a year – a 73 percent reduction from 2007 levels. This action will build on reductions from Nevada’s successful program for controlling mercury emissions from precious metal mining.

There are about 20 facilities in the United States that extract gold from ore that would be subject to the proposed rule. Some facilities in Nevada already are making significant progress toward the proposed reductions under that state’s program.

Mercury emitted to the air eventually settles in water, where it can change into methylmercury, which builds up in ocean and freshwater fish and can be highly toxic to humans who eat the fish– sometimes leading to fish consumption advisories to protect public health.

EPA will take public comment on the proposed rule for 30 days after it is published in the Federal Register. To learn more about making comments, visit www.regulations.gov.

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