EPA''s Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) program requires the mining industry to report substantial quantities of naturally occuring minerals and elemets that exist in low concentrations in all rock and soil, said the National Mining Association (NMA).
According to the 1999 TRI data released last week, the metals mining industry had the highest volume of releases of the 650 listed substances among all reporting industrial facilities.
NMA is arguing that metal mines are not the "top polluters" the media called them following the TRI report.
"There is nothing toxic about these materials," said NMA President Jack Gerard. "The allegations made by industry opponents are ludicrious and represent a cruel attempt to mislead and alarm the public."
NMA noted that 85 percent to 99 percent of what metal mines report is actually metal compounds that exist naturally in ordinary rock.
"As long as moving, storing, processing and managing rock are defined as ''releases'' under TRI, the quantities reported by mining will likely be greater than those from other industries," said Gerard. "It is important that the public understands the difference."
EPA itself admits "TRI estimates alone are not sufficient to determine exposure or calculate potential adverse effects on human health and the environment."
Gerard said environmental activists, however, consistently use the information in their attacks on industry.
"The ink wasn''t even dry on this report when activist groups began running around using words like ''toxic'' and ''pollutant'' to gain public support for their extremist political agenda," said Gerard.
Gerard noted that mining companies made public their TRI information when they filed their reports with EPA last summer and have been extremely cooperative in their efforts to explain to the public whan these reports mean.
"America''s mining operations are continually improving the quality of the environment in and around their mining communities," said Gerard, " and the industry is commiteed to ensuring the public receives meaningful information about today''s safe, efficient and environmentally sound operations."
by Virginia Sutcliffe