EARTHWORKS

New Evidence Shows Gold Mine Releasing Massive Unreported Mercury Air Pollution

June 11, 2007

EARTHWORKS * Great Basin Mine Watch

Conservation Groups call for Immediate State Action and File Notice Against Company

Reno, NV (06/11) - New information reveals that the Queenstake's Jerritt Canyon Mine in northern Nevada is releasing massive unreported amounts of mercury air pollution. The new emissions data, obtained from the Nevada Department of Environmental Protection (NDEP), indicates that the mine may have released as much as 6,000-8,000 pounds of mercury air pollution in 2005 and 2006, yet it reported only 300-400 pounds to state and federal agencies for those years. 

"It's a staggering amount of mercury, and a tremendous threat to the health and wellbeing of Nevada families," said Dan Randolph of Great Basin Mine Watch.

Although the emissions tests were conducted in October 2006, the results weren't made publicly available until last month. Jerritt Canyon submitted the test data to NDEP as a requirement of the State's new mercury regulations. It is the best data currently available for the mine, and represents the first time that direct agency oversight occurred during the testing process.

The new information elevates Jerritt Canyon to the single largest source of mercury air pollution in the entire U.S., releasing four to five times as much mercury as the next largest source the Martin Lake Steam Electric Station & Lignite Mine in Texas at 1,705 lbs of mercury, according to the EPA Toxic Release Inventory. Furthermore, the new numbers call into question the purported achievements of the voluntary mercury reduction program, which relied heavily on Jerritt Canyon's reported reductions. NDEP has repeatedly cited the program as evidence that mandatory emission limits aren't needed.

Conservation groups Great Basin Mine Watch and Earthworks sent a letter to NDEP on May 10, 2007, asking the State of Nevada to take immediate action to compel Queenstake to install the necessary technology to reduce these emissions.

"This calls for immediate and decisive intervention," said Dan Randolph. "The State needs to do whatever it takes to require Queenstake to control those emissions at once."

The groups also filed notice today, warning Queenstake that they will take legal action if the company doesn't fully disclose its mercury air emissions as required by the federal Community Right to Know Act. Great Basin Mine Watch, Earthworks and Idaho Conservation League filed the 60-day notice of intent to sue against Queenstake today for under-reporting the amount of toxic mercury released into the air.

"We've put them on notice. The company has to come clean on its pollution," said Bonnie Gestring of Earthworks. "Communities have a right to know how much mercury is going into the air where they live and work."

The Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Act (EPCRA) was established to ensure that the public has access to important information on the toxic and hazardous materials released near their community. Under the law, mining operations are required to submit an annual toxic chemical release report to the Environmental Protection Agency, which is then made available to the public through its Toxic Release Inventory (TRI) (see www.epa.gov/tri/).

Jerritt Canyon is the most recent of a string of companies which have seriously underreported their mercury pollution. Other companies include Glamis Gold and Newmont.

Mercury is a powerful neurotoxin, particularly for children. Exposure to mercury can cause significant neurological and developmental problems such as attention and language deficits, impaired memory and impaired vision and motor function.

For a copy of the NDEP letter, got to www.earthworksaction.org/publications.cfm?pubID=258

For a copy of the 60-day notice, go to www.earthworksaction.org/publications.cfm?pubID=257

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Tagged with: nevada, mining, mercury, gold

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