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Human Health and Environmental Damages from Mining and Mineral Processing Wastes

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EPA developed this background document to illustrate the human health and environmental damages caused by management of wastes from mining (i.e., extraction and beneficiation) and mineral processing, particularly damages caused by placement of mining and mineral processing wastes in land-based units.

Although the 66 damage cases in this report do not represent a statistically representative sample of all mining and mineral processing sites or the damages they have caused, the cases do provide convincing evidence that wastes from mining and mineral processing have caused significant human health and environmental damages. These damages occur across a broad range of mineral commodity sectors--from alumina to zirconium--and throughout all regions of the United States, in a wide variety of climatic and geological zones and in both rural and urban areas.

EPA prepared this report by:

  1. Compiling existing damage case summaries;
  2. Reviewing relevant inspection, enforcement, permitting, and other relevant files for mining and mineral processing facilities in selected states; and
  3. Soliciting the help of EPA Region 10 in drafting new damage cases.

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