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Mineral Processing Wastes

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This Web page is intended to provide compliance assistance to the mineral processing sector, and to assist state regulators and the public in understanding the federal requirements on the disposal of mineral processing wastes. Regulation affecting mineral processing wastes was developed through a long process covering the period 1980 to 1991. It involved numerous proposed and final rule makings and federal litigation. If a company is generating non-exempt hazardous wastes, it may need to obtain a permit from an authorized state or EPA Region. See November 2000 Enforcement Alert (PDF) (4 pp, 47K) regarding permitting.

Due to the complicated history and evolution of the regulation of mineral processing wastes, answering the simple question of which wastes are regulated can be complex. Users should refer to the regulation and supporting documents to determine if these requirements apply to them. However, the following questions and answers may help clarify the 1980 Bevill amendment to the Resources Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA):

For additional information on the regulation of mineral processing wastes, please review the complete Bevill Amendment Issues Training page, which is used by EPA to train industry and state regulators on how the EPA regulates solid and hazardous wastes from the extraction, beneficiation, and processing of ores and minerals.

The rest of the materials noted below include all of the federal rulemakings related to the regulation of mineral processing wastes, the Reports to Congress, which were issued to support those rulemakings, Opinion letters issued by EPA which explain how the regulations apply to specific companies or to specific wastes, technical support documents that were issued to support the rulemakings, a listing of related rulemakings, and useful links to web sites containing related information about mineral processing.

Federal Rulemaking Documents

In keeping with Concerned Citizens of Adamstown v. EPA No. 84-3041, D.D.C., August 21, 1985, EPA proposed to narrow the scope of the Exclusion for mineral processing wastes to include only a few specific waste streams (50 FR 40292). However, the Agency did not specify the criteria that it used to identify these wastes, or to distinguish them from other wastes that were not identified as being eligible for the exclusion. In response to this proposal, many companies and industry organizations "nominated" wastes that they believed were eligible for the regulatory exemption. Faced with an inability at that time to articulate criteria that could be used to distinguish exempt from non-exempt wastes and the approaching Court-ordered deadline for final action, EPA withdrew its proposal on October 9, 1986 (51 FR 36233).

In July, 1988, the court in Environmental Defense Fund v. EPA, 852 F.2d 1316 (D. C. Cir. 1988), cert. denied, 109 S. Ct. 1120 (1989) held that EPA's withdrawal of its 1985 proposal was arbitrary and capricious, and ordered EPA to reinterpret the scope of the Exclusion for mineral processing wastes. In particular, EPA was directed by the court to restrict the scope of the Exclusion as it applied to mineral processing wastes to include only "large volume, low hazard" wastes. In a series of rulemakings, EPA has, over a three year period, established the boundaries of the Mining Waste Exclusion for mineral processing wastes, has articulated the criteria that were used to define "mineral processing," and has evaluated whether individual wastes are large volume and low hazard and, thus, eligible for the temporary exclusion provided by RCRA section 3001(b)(3)(A)(ii). This rulemaking process involved the publication of final rules on September 1, 1989 (54 FR 36592) and January 23, 1990 (55 FR 2322). With the completion of these rules, the Agency issued a Report To Congress on 20 mineral processing wastes. The final Bevill rulemaking was issued on June 13, 1991 (56 FR 27300) which codified the Bevill exclusion at 40 CFR 261.4(b)(7).

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Related Rulemaking

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Reports to Congress

In 1984, EPA was sued for failing to submit a report to congress making the required regulatory determination by the statutory deadline (Concerned Citizens of Adamstown v. EPA No. 84-3041, D.D.C., August 21, 1985). In responding to this lawsuit, the Agency explained that it planned to propose a narrower interpretation of the scope of the Mining Waste Exclusion. On December 31, 1985, EPA published the required 1985 Report to Congress on Wastes from the Extraction and Beneficiation of Metallic Ores, Phosphate Rock, Asbestos, Overburden from Uranium Mining, and Oil Shale (PDF) (306 pp, 1.2MB), and on July 3, 1986 (51 FR 24496) published a determination that regulation of such wastes under subtitle C of RCRA was not warranted.

As a result of the 1989 court case Environmental Defense Fund v. EPA, 852 F.2d 1316 (D. C. Cir. 1988), cert. denied, 109 S. Ct. 1120, EPA was directed to issue a series of Bevill rulemaking. The Court also ordered EPA to issue a Report to Congress addressing the 20 special mineral processing wastes. The 1990 Report to Congress on Special Wastes from Mineral Processing (PDF) (667 pp, 4.5MB) was issued in compliance with the Court-ordered deadline.

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Useful Links related to the Regulation of Mineral Processing Wastes

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Compliance Assistance | Compliance Monitoring | Compliance Incentives

 


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