Mining companies to clean up legacy

A mining industry representative told the US National Mining Association (NMA) that mining companies are often the best and sometimes the only practical agents for cleaning up many abandoned mineral mines throughout the west. In fact, mining companies are best placed to do such clean up anywhere in the world (IM, July 2006, p3). Harold P. Quinn Jr, Senior Vice President and General Counsel said mining companies have the incentive and the expertise to clean up many abandoned mines at no cost to the public, provided they are granted limited liability protection during clean-up operations.

Quinn recommended that Congress couple such provisions with a requirement that companies must obtain an EPA-approved permit authorizing remediation activity in coordination with the states. Allowing mining companies to qualify as ‘good Samaritans’ is the most efficient and often the only way to clean up mines abandoned long before environmental laws required such activities from the responsible parties. Federal agency budgets for clean up are obviously limited, as are grants to private NGOs, said Quinn.

Noting that mining companies would be spending their own funds on clean-up activities, Quinn said economic incentives are justified to help companies recover their costs. "The fact that companies may profit during clean up of an abandoned mine should not detract from the fact that, without spending public funds, the company has in fact remediated an environmental danger," he said.