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Small Entities and Rulemaking

Potential SBAR Panel: Financial Responsibility Requirements for Hard Rock Mining

About the Rule

What is the Implication of the Rulemaking on Small Entities?

Section 108(b) of the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) of 1980, as amended, establishes certain regulatory authorities concerning financial responsibility requirements. Specifically, the statutory language addresses the promulgation of regulations that require classes of facilities to establish and maintain evidence of financial responsibility consistent with the degree and duration of risk associated with the production, transportation, treatment, storage, or disposal of hazardous substances. EPA recognizes that financial responsibility is an important policy tool for ensuring that the clean-up of contaminated sites is not left as a burden for the public. In a July 28, 2009 Federal Register notice, EPA identified classes of facilities within the hard rock mining industry as those for which the Agency will first develop financial responsibility requirements under CERCLA Section 108(b).

As discussed in that notice, EPA research indicates that the hard rock mining industry typically operates on a large scale, with releases of toxic chemicals to the environment and in some situations, subsequent exposure of humans, organisms, and ecosystems to hazardous substances on a similarly large scale. The metal mining industry released nearly 1.15 billion pounds of hazardous substances in 2007. The hard rock mining industry is responsible for polluting 3,400 miles of streams and 440,000 acres of land. Approximately 10,000 miles of rivers and streams may have been contaminated by acid mine drainage from the metal mining industry. The severity of consequences as a result of releases of and exposure to hazardous substances is evident in the enormous costs associated with past and projected future actions necessary to protect public health and the environment.

EPA's preliminary analyses currently show that approximately 298 companies (or 81% of the potentially regulated universe) are small entities.

How Can I Learn More?

You may potentially be subject to this rulemaking, if you are the owner or operator of a small hard rock mining facility. In the July 2009 notice, EPA defined hard rock mining to include classes of facilities that extract, beneficiate or process metals (e.g., copper, gold iron, lead, magnesium, molybdenum, silver, uranium, and zinc) and non-metallic, non-fuel minerals (e.g., asbestos, phosphate rock, and sulfur). EPA notes that certain non-fuel hard rock mining sectors (e.g. construction sand and gravel) were not included among those hard rock mining facilities identified in the notice. (See Note 1.)

While the opportunity to participate on this Panel has passed, you will have the chance to submit comments concerning this rulemaking during the standard public comment period commencing after publication of the notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) in the Federal Register. Monthly updates about the rulemaking's timeline are available on the rule’s profile page on EPA’s Reg DaRRT.  From this page, you can determine when the NPRM is projected to publish and, thus, when you will have an opportunity to comment on the rulemaking. 

Regular updates to describe activities related to this rulemaking are also available on http://www.epa.gov/superfund/policy/financialresponsibility/. In addition, you may wish to read the July 28, 2009 Federal Register notice. Finally, semiannual updates about the development status of the rulemaking are available on both:


1. See memorandum to Record, from Stephen Hoffman, USEPA and Shahid Mahmud, USEPA. Re: Mining Classes Not Included in Identified Hard Rock Mining Classes of Facilities. June 2009.


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