VANCOUVER (miningweekly.com) – A new report that fine-combed the national pollutant release and transfer registers (PRTRs) of Canada, the US and Mexico to explore pollutant data reported by industrial facilities, has pointed to the critical need to standardise the way information is collected across the three jurisdictions, according to the Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC).
Orlando Cabrera Rivera of the CEC tells Mining Weekly Online that the differences in the comparability of the data sets from the various jurisdictions proved to be the single biggest challenge in compiling the report.
The fifteenth edition of the ‘Taking Stock’ report – a flagship series of the CEC dedicated to present data and information on the pollutant releases and transfers reported by Canadian, Mexican and US industrial facilities to their respective PRTR programmes – examines the 2013 pollutant data contained in the PRTRs, which is the latest data available from all three countries.
Rivera said the goal of the publication is to enhance the understanding of the sources, locations and handling of industrial substances to promote pollution prevention and support the integration of PRTR data into an overarching framework for managing pollutants in North America.
The 24 144 facilities assessed produced almost 5.23-billion kilograms in releases and transfers, with a few major industry sectors, such as the oil and gas and mining, and a relatively small number of pollutants, accounting for large proportions of the total.
The oil and gas extraction and metal ore mining sectors reported the release of 25 pollutants, including metals and sulphur compounds, and accounted for at least 90% of total reported North American releases and transfers.
However, Rivera again noted that owing to differences among national PRTR reporting requirements, reporting of some of these top sectors and pollutants is not consistent across the region. These discrepancies have impacts on our understanding of the types and amounts of pollutants manufactured, used and potentially released into the North American environment.
He explained that on-site disposals or land releases accounted for 40% of the total, followed by off-site transfers to recycling (24%) and transfers for other treatment (10%). Releases to air and water represented 9% and 4%, respectively, of the total.
The data on releases and transfers from the mining sector, presented in a special feature analysis, show that the industry accounted for more than 1.67-billion kilograms, or almost one-third, of the total for 2013.
“On-site disposals or land releases accounted for almost 99% of the sector’s total, with most of these reported by mines in Canada and the US. Such discrepancies further highlight the effects of important differences among the national PRTR programmes – especially relating to reporting of on-site disposal or land releases, and certain mining pollutants – on our understanding of this sector’s activities and potential impacts,” Rivera said.
The report further demonstrated that total releases and transfers are not a very useful measure of the mining industry’s impacts and potential risk to human health or the environment. It points to the data and information that can be most useful, including details about spills or other unplanned releases occurring after mines have ceased to operate.