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Environmental Liabilities: Hardrock Mining Cleanup Obligations

GAO-06-884T Published: Jun 14, 2006. Publicly Released: Jun 14, 2006.
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Key federal environmental statutes, such as the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) and the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), which established the Superfund program, require that parties statutorily responsible for pollution bear the cost of cleaning up contaminated sites. In many cases, liable parties meet their cleanup responsibilities. However, many parties responsible for hardrock mining sites include businesses that no longer exist, having been liquidated through bankruptcy or otherwise dissolved. Under these circumstances, some hardrock mining companies that have caused environmental contamination have left the problem for others, typically the government, to address. We were asked to provide a statement for the record on the cleanup of contamination resulting from hardrock mining as it relates to our August 2005 report, Environmental Liabilities: EPA Should Do More to Ensure that Liable Parties Meet Their Cleanup Obligations (GAO-05-658). We made nine recommendations in this report aimed at reducing the government's financial burden for costly environmental cleanups. The agency generally agreed with many of the recommendations, stating its intent to further evaluate some of them.

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AccountabilityContaminationEnvironmental cleanupsEnvironmental lawEnvironmental monitoringHazardous substancesLand managementLiability of environmental damagesMiningMining industryPollution controlRisk managementFinancial assurance