Published: February 1, 2009
By: Anna Breithaupt for Alaskans for Responsible Mining
The purpose of this report is to provide a basis for the development of regulatory policy for all gold mining operations that emit or have the potential to emit mercury into the atmosphere. At press, no federal regulations or Alaska state regulations exist to adequately control mercury air emissions from mining operations.
Gold mining operations may release mercury to air, land, and water, presenting a threat to public health, fisheries, and the Alaskan way of life. Exposure to this heavy metal has the potential to cause severe neurological effects. Mine workers are at risk, as are people who do not work at mines but consume substantial amounts of fish or marine mammals. Alaska's population is already at an in- creased risk of adverse health impacts due to Alaska bearing a disproportionate burden of global mercury pollution. Release of mercury from gold mining operations compounds the problem.
Given the rapid development of Alaska's mineral resources, a concerted effort must be made to en- sure that the development of these resources is conducted in a responsible manner. It is appropriate and necessary that existing and new gold mines in the state be subject to regulations that protect Alaskans from the toxic effects of mercury pollution.
A framework of strong regulations to substantially reduce the amount of mercury released into the environment and adhere to the principles of responsible resource development is presented. Such a policy includes:
- Comprehensive testing of sources
- Monitoring and reporting requirements
- Strict mercury emission control limits
- A mass-balance approach to emissions reporting to ensure accurate reports
- Worker safety standards