Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Mining and dust

One of the more common complaints from residents near mining operations is about dust from the tailings piles or from trucks on the dirt roads. This applies to hard rock mines as well as sand & gravel quarries. This has become a major issue in Maricopa County where rapid urban development has pushed homes closer to mining operations that used to be in the boonies. The dust issues are especially of concern in retirement communities outside Phoenix and Tucson.

Today's news reports that Freeport's Sierrita mine near Green Valley was fined $45,000 by ADEQ for dust emissions off its tailings pile in 2006 in violation of its air quality permit, plus the company will contribute $60,000 for a school bus in the Sahuarita district. [right, Sierrita mine tailings. Photo courtesy of kreyten's photostream]

Freeport says it spent $170,000 cleaning homes or reimbursing for cleaning of nearly 700 residents after the 2006 incident, and spends $2 million annually in dust control measures with 20 employees assigned to that task.

Freeport says that "Sierrita prepared a risk assessment to report on the effects of wind-blown tailings on human health. The report was completed in April 2007 and concluded that the tailing dust was comparable to dust from the surrounding desert. Any health effects would be similar to those associated with dust from the area. This was consistent with findings from an earlier Arizona Department of Health Services Report issued in October 2006."

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