EPA faces increased pressure to alter reporting requirements under the Toxic Release Inventory Program (TRI) for mining operations and facilities that manufacture or use lead.

EPA is in the process of developing a rule that could change how mining companies report toxics in waste rock under TRI, a program that requires industry to report on its toxic chemical releases and other waste management activities. The rule will address regulatory changes for the mining sector and aims to interpret a court decision (Barrick Goldstrike Mines Inc. v EPA) that found Barrick Goldstrike Mines exempt from reporting toxic chemicals that make up less than one percent of waste rock.

Waste rock contains trace amounts of naturally occurring metals like lead, mercury and arsenic. Although the amounts in the rock are small, some mining operations can discard millions of tons of waste rock, compounding the amount of toxics released to the environment. Under TRI, reporting is required for substances that are processed, manufactured or used. Industry argues that simply moving the rock does not necessitate TRI reporting.

The TRI program is also facing criticism over its reporting thresholds for lead. A recent issue paper released Sept. 22 by EPA¿s Science Advisory Board (SAB) could bolster industry¿s claims that lead reporting is highly burdensome. An April 2001 rule lowered the reporting threshold by more than 20,000 pounds a year, forcing many facilities to begin reporting lead. The SAB report says the model used to evaluate lead is incorrectly applied. In addition, a lawsuit is currently pending between a coalition of metal industry associations and EPA to stop the reporting rule (Ad Hoc Metals Coalition v. EPA).