The Arizona Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) earlier this week made public its 1998 Community Right-to-Know report which included information about materials and substances managed and moved at five Phelps Dodge copper mining facilities in Arizona.
The report is based on information submitted to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the ADEQ last summer by industries covered under the federal Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA), which is commonly referred to as the Toxics Release Inventory (TRI).
Specific information about the materials reported by the Phelps Dodge operations was announced by the company last June.
In Arizona, Phelps Dodge facilities reported large volumes of copper found in extremely low concentrations in rock, and small quantities of other substances used in copper processing.
Phelps Dodge operations included for the first time in TRI reports are Morenci, Bibsee and three former Cyprus Amex facilities -- Bagdad, Sierrita and Miami -- which were acquired by Phelps Dodge in late 1999.
Nearly all (99.5 percent) of the materials reported by these facilities are metallic minerals that occur naturally in low concentrations in rock which is moved, processed and managed in safe, designated areas at the company's mines.
The remaining 0.5 percent includes other substances, such as sulfuric acid, used in the processing of copper.
The Phelps Dodge Arizona facilities reported the following total volume of materials on the 1998 TRI report: Morenci, 140 million pounds; Sierrita, 130 million pounds; Miami, 123 million pounds; Bagdad, 93 million pounds; and Bisbee, 1 million pounds.
"Copper mining, by its very nature, requires us to move a large volume of earth which contains microscopic amounts of metallic minerals," said Timothy R. Snider, president of Phelps Dodge. "So, while we are reporting a large quantity of substances, they contain only very low concentrations of naturally-occurring metals."
The information reported by Phelps Dodge and other hard rock mining companies does not reflect a change in the operating or environmental protection practices of its mining operations. Instead, the information reflects ongoing movement and management of rock material.
1998 was the first year hard rock mining operations and six other industries were included in the 14-year-old TRI program.
The nearly 650 chemicals and substances covered by TRI are reported by weight.
As a result the program was not designed to evaluate risk, nor is it indicative of risk.
EPA is expected to provide nationwide information on the 1998 data in the near future.