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Mineral Processing Waste

Photo: mineral processingMineral processing typically generates waste streams that generally bear little or no resemblance to the materials that entered the operation. These operations most often destroy the physical structure of the mineral, producing product and waste streams that are not earthen in character. Mineral processing operations generally follow beneficiation and include techniques that often change the chemical composition of the ore or mineral, such as smelting, electrolytic refining, and acid attack or digestion.

Regulation affecting mineral processing wastes was developed through a long process covering the period from 1980 to 1991. It involved numerous proposed and final rule makings and federal litigation.

Twenty mineral processing wastes, specified in the September 1, 1989 final rule (54 FR 36592) (PDF) (52 pp, 7.2MB, About PDF), qualify for the Bevill Exclusion as “low toxicity, high volume wastes.” The remainder of mineral processing wastes are regulated under RCRA and are subject to Land Disposal Restrictions according to the May 26, 1998 final rule (63 FR 28555) (PDF) (198 pp, 6.31MB, About PDF).

Due to the complicated history and evolution of the regulation of mineral processing wastes, answering the simple question of which wastes are regulated can be complex. For an in-depth overview, visit EPA’s Compliance Assistance Web site for the mineral processing sector. See also the mineral processing technical documents.

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