Metal Smelters Print
Friday, 23 September 2011 15:36

Metal Smelters

During industrial smelting, mercury is produced as a byproduct of processing ore in mining. Usually, metal in extracted from the ore by heating it to a temperature that releases the metal. Since mercury has a lower boiling point than many other metals, the mercury is often released as a gas during the smelting process. Not unless the mercury is captured by special emission reduction equipment, most of it ends up in the atmosphere and aquatic environments, whereas some is deposited onto land. Sometimes the concentration of mercury in some ores is high enough to make recovery for sale economically.

Relevant legislation and NGO policy work

In the EU

The industrial activity of Non-Ferrous Metals is covered under the Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control (IPPC) Directive (96/61/EC). The IPPC has been in place since 1996. The Commission has undertaken a 2 year review to examine how the legislation on industrial emissions could be improved. As a result, the Commission adopted on 21 December 2007 a Proposal for a Directive on industrial emissions recasting seven existing Directives (the IPPC Directive and six sectoral Directives) into a single legislative instrument. Following the co-decision process on this Proposal, the  Industrial Emissions Directive 2010/75/EU (IED) has been adopted on 24 November 2010 and published in the Official Journal on 17 December 2010. It has entered into force on 6 January 2011 and has to be transposed into national legislation by Member States by 7 January 2013.

IPPC and now IED sets out the main principles for the permitting and control of installations based on an integrated approach and the application of best available techniques (BAT) which are the most effective techniques to achieve a high level of environmental protection, taking into account the costs and benefits. For more information on the directive please visit the EC website.

The benchmarks or criteria on which BAT relies are described in the BAT Reference Documents (BREFs). The first Non-Ferrous Metals BREF was adopted in 2001. This is currently under review - latest draft available can be found here.

Through the implementation of the IED, the role of the BREFs will be strengthened. After a BREF is completed, it should be subject to BAT conclusions that are adopted through a comitology decision (implementing act). The right of initiative however rests with the Commission. BAT conclusions contain parts of the BREF, their description, information on applicability, including BAT Associated Emission Levels (BATAELs) for different pollutants (meaning emission levels that can be achieved for a pollutant if the industry is implementing BAT) as well as associated consumption levels and monitoring. It may also include site remediation measures “where appropriate”. Within 4 years after publication of the comitology decision on the relevant BAT conclusions, local authorities should review and update  all the permits to the respective industries in order to make sure the industrial activity operates according to the requirements set out in the BAT conclusions. The provision in the IED requires that Emission Limit Values (ELVs) for pollutants set out in the permit should not exceed the relevant BATAEL.  However the permit writer may derogate in specific cases and set higher ELVs under certain conditions. An assessment needs to demonstrate that the application of the BATAEL would lead to disproportionate higher costs compared to the benefits due to the local conditions (technical characteristics of the plants, or geographical location or local environmental conditions). In any case no significant pollution may be caused and a high level of protection of the environment as a whole is achieved. Environmental Quality Standards also need to be respected. These derogations are subject to public participation and scrutiny by the public concerned, which includes NGOs.

 Globally

 For the US see relevant pieces of laws and regulations at http://www.epa.gov/hg/regs.htm#regs

On April 22, 2004, EPA issued a regulation to control emissions from iron and steel foundries. The rule included emission limits for manufacturing processes and pollution prevention-based requirements to reduce air toxics from furnace charge materials and coating/binder formulations. The rule also included a work practice requirement to ensure removal of auto mercury switches from scrap.