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20 Mineral Processing Wastes Covered by the Mining Waste Exclusion
- Slag from primary copper processing
- Slag from primary lead processing
- Red and brown muds from bauxite refining
- Phosphogypsum from phosphoric acid production
- Slag from elemental phosphorous production
- Gasifier ash from coal gasification
- Process wastewater from coal gasification
- Calcium sulfate wastewater treatment plant sludge from primary copper processing
- Slag tailings from primary copper processing
- Flurogypsum from hydrofluoric acid production
- Process wastewater from hydrofluoric acid production
- Air pollution control dust/sludge from iron blast furnaces
- Iron blast furnace slag
- Treated residue from roasting/leaching of chrome ore
- Process wastewater from primary magnesium processing by the anhydrous process
- Process wastewater from phosphoric acid production
- Basic oxygen furnace and open hearth furnace air pollution control dust/sludge from carbon steel production
- Basic oxygen furnace and open hearth furnace slag from carbon steel production
- Chloride process waste solids from titanium tetrachloride production
- Slag from primary zinc processing
This web page provides an outline of the legislative and regulatory history, and current status of the mining waste exemption. Links to key regulatory and technical documents are also provided.
- Legislative and Regulatory Timeline
- Public Docket for Mining Waste Exemption
- Supporting Technical Documents
Mining wastes include waste generated during the extraction, beneficiation, and processing of minerals. Most extraction and beneficiation wastes from hardrock mining (the mining of metallic ores and phosphate rock) and 20 specific mineral processing wastes (see side bar below) are categorized by EPA as "special wastes" and have been exempted by the Mining Waste Exclusion from federal hazardous waste regulations under Subtitle C of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA).
Extraction is the first phase of hardrock mining which consists of the initial removal of ore from the earth. Beneficiation follows and is the initial attempt at liberating and concentrating the valuable mineral from the extracted ore. After the beneficiation step, the remaining material is often physically and chemically similar to the material (ore or mineral) that entered the operation, except that particle size has been reduced. Beneficiation operations include crushing; grinding; washing; dissolution; crystallization; filtration; sorting; sizing; drying; sintering; pelletizing; briquetting; calcining; roasting in preparation for leaching; gravity concentration; magnetic separation; electrostatic separation; flotation; ion exchange; solvent extraction; electrowinning; precipitation; amalgamation; and heap, dump, vat, tank, and in situ leaching. The extraction and beneficiation of minerals generates large quantities of waste.
Mineral processing operations generally follow beneficiation and include techniques that often change the chemical composition the physical structure of the ore or mineral. Examples of mineral processing techniques include smelting, electrolytic refining, and acid attack or digestion. Mineral processing waste streams typically bear little or no resemblance to the materials that entered the operation, producing product and waste streams that are not earthen in character. For more information on the management of mineral processing wastes, visit EPA's Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance Mineral Processing Wastes Web page.
Legislative and Regulatory Timeline
- July 18, 2007EPA publishes Criteria for the Safe and Environmentally Protective Use of Granular Mine Tailings Known as Chat'' (72 FR 39331). EPA finalized criteria for the environmentally protective use of chat in transportation construction projects carried out in whole or in part with federal funds. EPA is also recommending criteria as guidance for the beneficial use of chat in non-transportation, non-residential concrete and cement projects.
- April 4, 2006EPA publishes Criteria for the Safe and Environmentally Protective Use of Granular Mine Tailings Known as Chat'' (71 FR16729). In this proposed rule, EPA proposes criteria for the environmentally protective use of "chat" (a gravel-like waste created from lead and zinc mining activities in the Oklahoma, Kansas, and Missouri tri-state mining region between the late 1800s and mid 1900s) in transportation construction projects carried out in whole or in part with federal funds, and in concrete and cement projects.
- May 26, 1998—EPA publishes Land Disposal Restrictions Phase IV: Final Rule Promulgating Treatment Standards for Metal Wastes and Mineral Processing Wastes; Mineral Processing Secondary Materials and Bevill Exclusion Issues; Treatment Standards for Hazardous Soils, and Exclusion of Recycled Wood Preserving Wastewaters; Final Rule (63 FR 28555). LDR Phase IV establishes treatment standards for metal-bearing wastes including Toxicity Characteristic (TC) waste (those with high levels of metal constituents) and waste generated in mineral processing operations.
- For additional information, see: Supporting Materials for the May 26, 1998 Land Disposal Restrictions Phase IV
- June 13, 1991EPA publishes Special Wastes from Mineral Processing (Mining Waste Exclusion); Final Regulatory Determination and Final Rule (56 FR 27300). This final regulatory determination and rule determines that regulation of the 20 mineral processing wastes studied in the Report to Congress and identified in previous final rules as hazardous waste under RCRA Subtitle C is not warranted. These 20 specified mineral processing wastes continue to be excluded from the definition of hazardous waste.
- July 31, 1990EPA submits a Report to Congress on Special Wastes from Mineral Processing (EPA530-SW-90-070A-C) which addresses the "large-volume, low hazard" mineral processing waste meeting the Court narrowed criteria.
- September 1, 1989 and January 23, 1990EPA publishes in the Federal Register (54 FR 36592; September 1, 1989 and 55 FR 2322; January 23, 1990) the final boundaries of the Mining Waste Exclusion for mineral processing wastes, limiting the exclusion to 20 specific mineral processing wastes generated by 91 facilities located in 29 states, representing 12 mineral commodity sectors.
- July 1988EPA is sued for withdrawing its October 2, 1985 proposal to reinterpret the mining waste exclusion in regards to mineral processing waste (51 FR 36233; October 9, 1986) and failing to complete the required Report to Congress and regulatory determination (Environmental Defense Fund v. EPA 852 F.2d 1316 (D.C. Cir. 1988), cert. Denied 109 S. Ct. 1120 (1989)). The Court orders EPA to reinterpret the scope of the exclusion for mineral processing waste according to a new schedule. EPA also is directed to restrict the scope of the exclusion to include only "large-volume, low hazard" wastes.
- July 3, 1986EPA publishes the Final Regulatory Determination for Extraction and Beneficiation Waste (51 FR 24496) which determines that regulation of these wastes under RCRA Subtitle C is not warranted. These wastes continue to be excluded from the definition of hazardous waste.
- December 31, 1985EPA submits a Report to Congress on Wastes from the Extraction and Beneficiation of Metallic Ores, Phosphate Rock, Asbestos, Overburden from Uranium Mining, and Oil Shale (EPA530-SW-85-033). For additional information, see:
- October 2, 1985EPA proposes in the Federal Register (50 FR 40292) to reinterpret the scope of the mining waste exclusion as it applies to mineral and ore processing wastes, leaving only large-volume processing wastes excluded. Other mineral and ore processing wastes that are hazardous would be subject to full RCRA Subtitle C (hazardous waste) regulation. Only the large-volume processing wastes still covered by the exclusion would be studied for the Report to Congress.
- August 1984EPA is sued for failing to submit the Report to Congress and make the required regulatory determination by the statutory deadline (Concerned Citizens of Adamstown v. EPA No. 84-3041, D.D.C., August 21, 1985). EPA responds to the lawsuit explaining that it plans to propose a narrower interpretation of the scope of the Mining Waste Exclusion so that it would encompass fewer wastes. EPA also proposes two schedules for completing the Mining Waste Report to Congressone for completing the report on extraction and beneficiation wastes and one for promulgating a reinterpretation for mineral processing waste.
- October 31, 1983EPA misses the statutory deadline for submitting its mining waste Report to Congress.
- November 19, 1980EPA promulgates interim final amendments to hazardous waste regulations in the Federal Register (45 FR 76618) This FR notice includes an exclusion for mining waste from the definition of hazardous (§261.4(b)(7)).
- October 12, 1980Congress enacts the Solid Waste Disposal Act Amendments of 1980 (Public Law 96-482) which amends RCRA. Among the amendments, Section 3001(b)(3)(A)(i-iii)frequently referred to as the Bevill Amendmenttemporarily exempts three special wastes from hazardous waste regulation until further study can be completed. Section(b)(3)(A)(ii) specifically exempts "solid waste from the extraction, beneficiation, and processing of ores and mineral, including phosphate rock and overburden from the mining of uranium ore." At the same time Section 8002(p) requires EPA to study these wastes and submit a Report to Congress to be completed in conjunction with the mining waste report previously required by section 8002(f). EPA is required to complete the report by October 1983 and to evaluate the adverse effects on human health and the environment, if any, from the disposal and utilization of these wastes. EPA is further required to make a regulatory determination (within six months of the completing the Report to Congress) as to whether mining wastes warrant regulation under RCRA Subtitle C or some other set of regulations.
- December 18, 1978EPA publishes the first set of proposed hazardous waste management standards in the Federal Register (43 FR 58946). This FR notice includes a proposal to exempt six categories of "special wastes" from the RCRA Subtitle C regulations until further study can be completed. Mining waste; phosphate rock mining, beneficiation, and processing waste; and uranium waste are three of the six special wastes identified.
- October 21, 1976Congress passes the Resources Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) (Public Law 94-580) which requires EPA to develop regulations governing the identification and management of hazardous waste. Section 8002(f) requires EPA to perform a "detailed and comprehensive study of the adverse effects of solid wastes from active and abandoned surface and underground mines on the environment..."
Public Docket for Mining Waste Exemption
Dockets contain all publicly available materials used in the development of regulations, such as Federal Register notices and rules, supporting analyses, technical background documents, and comments submitted by the public on Agency reports and rulemakings. EPA dockets are available electronically at Regulations.gov.
To use Regulations.gov:
- Select Docket Search.
- Select "Environmental Protection Agency" from the Agency drop-down menu.
- In the Keyword Box, type "mining waste" and then click the "Submit" button to receive your search results. Be patient; loading the documents can take several minutes.
- The docket should appear with the docket ID number (e.g., EPA-HQ-RCRA-1985-0045).
Supporting Technical Documents
December 1985December 1985 Report to Congress - Wastes from the Extraction and Beneficiation of Metallic Ores, Phosphate Rock, Asbestos, Overburden from Uranium Mining, and Oil Shale
- Identification/Description of Sectors/Waste Streams
- Applicability of the TCLP to Mineral Processing Wastes
- Mineral Processing Facilities Placing Mixtures of Exempt and Non-Exempt Waste in On-Site Waste Management Units
- Remanded Smelting Wastes
- Lightweight Aggregate Production
- Titanium Tetrachloride Production
- Human Health and Environmental Damages
- Site Visit Reports
- Regulatory Impact Analysis
- Capacity Analysis Background Document