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MEI Online: Environmental Issues: Latest News: July 18th 2003


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:: Better Mercury Controls  

Four gold mining companies were recently recognised by the US EPA for their efforts to improve air quality by voluntarily taking steps to reduce mercury air emissions in the state of Nevada. Placer Dome, Barrick, Anglo Gold and Newmont received the EPA 2003 Environmental Achievement Award at a special ceremony in San Francisco in late April. The annual award celebrates and recognises outstanding environmental advocates who have made significant contributions toward enhancing and protecting the quality of the environment.

The four companies were nominated by the EPA’s Waste Management Division for the work that was done through the Voluntary Mercury Air Emission Reduction Programme (VMRP). The VMRP, which was launched in June 2002 at the Nevada Mining Association’s Environmental Committee meeting, was a partnership between the four companies and the Nevada Division of Environmental Protection.

The EPA said the four companies were chosen for the award because of the voluntary steps each took to reduce mercury air emissions at their mines. “Process modifications and chemical experimentation have resulted in significant, permanent reductions," said David Jones, associate director of the EPA’s Waste Management Division. “By 2005 we expect a 50% reduction from the 1999 mercury emissions level." Data released in 1999 by the Toxic Release Inventory revealed air releases of more than 13,000 lb of mercury from gold mines in Nevada.

The key sources of mercury air emissions at Placer Dome’s Cortez are the carbon kiln and furnace in the mill. Cortez chose 1998 as the baseline year for the purposes of the VMRP, and beginning in 1999, initiatives to reduce mercury air emission levels began. An organic sulphide was added at the end of the leach cycle, which precipitates mercury out of the cyanide leach solution before it is introduced to the milling process. These extremely low levels of stabilised mercury compounds are then stored in the tailings pond.



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