The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), in accordance with its mandate under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), asked CRA to estimate the costs to various segments of the U.S. mining industry of compliance with hypothetical waste management scenarios. Overall, the U.S. mining industry generates about 1.5 billion tons of solid waste annually, including mining and ore beneficiation wastes. Although generally considered high-volume, low-hazard waste streams, certain of these products may contain potentially hazardous materials such as heavy metals, acid generating sulfides, and toxic process fluids. Without proper management of these wastes, potentially harmful contaminants could be released, posing a major threat to human health and the environment.
In our first study, we projected such costs of compliance for the copper, gold, lead, silver, and zinc mining industry segments. For a follow-on project, we estimated similar costs for the phosphate and uranium mining segments. These last materials, by their highly toxic nature and the waste management procedures necessary to dispose of them safely, required that a compliance cost methodology differing significantly from that devised for the other industry segments be developed. Capital, operating, and incremental costs as well as future waste generation rates were projected for each mining industry segment.