September 21, 2006 — Coeur d'Alene Mines, the owner of the Kensington Mine, is under scrutiny for grossly under-reporting its mercury air pollution to the Environmental Protection Agency at its Rochester Mine in northern Nevada. Three citizen organizations, Earthworks, Idaho Conservation League, and Great Basin Mine Watch, have sent Coeur a 60-day notice of bringing a citizen suit against the corporation.
“Mercury is a serious public health concern”, said Bonnie Gestring of Earthworks. “If companies don't come clean about their mercury air pollution, it puts people and fisheries at risk.”
Federal law requires mining companies to report their emissions annually to the EPA's Toxic Release Inventory (TRI) so the public has access to information about the amount of toxic mercury released in and around their communities. Coeur has reported zero, or minimal, mercury air emissions to the TRI each year for the last five years. Government documents recently obtained by the groups contradict these figures.
“Based on the amount of byproduct mercury collected by Coeur, the release of effectively no mercury emissions would require technology that is beyond what is currently available,” said Dr. Glenn Miller, scientist and board member of Great Basin Mine Watch. “Coeur is the 2nd largest mercury byproduct producer in the nation.”
Health tests at the Coeur Rochester mine have shown harmful levels of mercury in three mine workers, and air monitoring has revealed levels in the work environment that exceed the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standards.
Mercury is a potent neurotoxin, causing significant neurological and developmental problems such as attention and language deficits and impaired memory, vision, and motor functions. It also accumulates in fish and wildlife.
Scientists have reported high mercury concentrations in fish and waterfowl down-wind from Nevada s large gold mines, generating significant concern from down-wind states of Idaho and Utah.
The EPA isn't taking steps to address the problem, so we are taking steps through the community Right to Know Act,” said Dan Randolph of Great Basin Mine Watch. “They're clearly under-reporting their emissions and they've been doing it for years.”
The companies have 60 days to respond to the notice. The Right to Know Act allows companies to submit revised forms to the EPA at any time.