ELKO - Toxic releases in Nevada were up in 2010 to 477 million pounds, a 161 percent increase over the nearly 183 million released in 2009, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Toxic Release Inventory figures released today.
The EPA's regional office in San Francisco stated that 98 percent of the toxic chemical releases in Nevada came from metal mining.
"Nearly all - 85 to 99 percent - of the substances reported by mining operations occur naturally in the local rock and soil and remain in low concentrations in the large amount of material handled and managed at specially designed on-site facilities permitted and regulated by state and federal laws," National Mining Association President and Chief Executive Officer Hal Quinn said.
He said in a statement today that one reason for the higher releases from mines nationwide for 2010 was due to increased demand for U.S. metals "resulting from worldwide economic recovery."
The EPA said another reason for the increase may be changes in the chemical composition of ore.
The agency stated that in the mining sector "even a small change in the chemical composition of the ore being mined - which EPA understands is one of the reasons for the increase in total reported releases - may lead to big changes in the amount of toxic chemicals reported nationally."
The regional office also reported arsenic and arsenic compounds made up 57 percent of Nevada's reported releases for 2010, and 31 percent were surface impoundments.
Newmont Mining Corp.'s Phoenix operations and Twin Creeks Mine showed the highest amounts of TRI releases.
Newmont's Phoenix site south of Battle Mountain, called the Copper Canyon facility in the report, released a little more than 208 million pounds in 2010, the EPA chart shows. Twin Creeks released a little more than 169 million pounds.
"Approximately 98 percent of what we have reported are trace, naturally occurring minerals contained in rock that is part of the mining process. Virtually all of these elements are contained in engineered facilities at our sites," Mary Korpi, director of external relations for Newmont's Nevada operations, said today.
She said the TRI numbers are "not a measurement of pollution or human health risk," and "EPA clearly states that the data released does not mean that facilities with elevated levels are out of compliance with local, state or federal environmental regulations."
"Our operations remain in compliance and Newmont will continue to operate in compliance. Newmont's industry leading environmental protection standards require these trace, naturally occurring minerals to be carefully managed and contained in engineered facilities on site under existing state and federal regulations," Korpi said.
The third highest release site in Nevada for TRI releases was Barrick Gold Corp.'s Goldstrike Mine north of Carlin, with nearly 29.26 million pounds, followed by Barrick's Cortez Mines in Lander County at 24.3 million pounds and Newmont's Carlin South Area Operations at 16.35 million pounds.
Barrick's Ruby Hill Mine in Eureka County posted 10.29 million pounds of TRI, while Yukon-Nevada Gold Corp.'s Jerritt Canyon Mine north of Elko had 4.43 million pounds of releases.
U.S. Ecology Nevada Inc. in Nye County released 3.433 million pounds, and in ninth place is the Round Mountain Mine in Nye County, with 1.93 million pounds, followed by Tronox LLC in Clark County, with 1.63 million pounds.
Nationwide, the EPA reported that 3.93 billion pounds of toxic chemicals were released to the environment in 2010, a 16 percent increase from 2009.
The national increase is mainly due to changes in the mining sector and several increases in several other sectors, including the chemical and primary metals industries, according to the EPA.
"The annual toxics report helps residents and local governments make informed decisions, and by working together with businesses, they can reduce chemical use," said Jared Blumenfield, EPA's regional administrator for the Pacific Southwest, which includes Nevada.