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EPA Moves to Slash Mercury from Gold Production /Harmful emissions would be cut by more than 70 percent

Release Date: 04/16/2010
Contact Information: Cathy Milbourn (News Media Only) 202-564-7849 202-564-4355

WASHINGTON - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is proposing to cut emissions from gold ore processing and production facilities, the sixth largest source of mercury air emissions in the country. Today’s action is one of several steps EPA is taking to reduce mercury, which can damage children’s developing brains and nervous systems, even before they are born.

EPA’s proposal 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.

“Taking mercury out of the air makes our communities safer for everyone,” said Gina McCarthy assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation. “Our proposal will further progress that has already been made to limit mercury emissions from this industry.”

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.

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