Our Approach to Waste

As an efficient operator in a highly competitive business, Arch implements best practices to minimize the use of raw materials and inputs, thereby reducing the generation of waste.

Further, as a U.S. operator, Arch is subject to the governing regulations of — and to oversight by — the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Department of Interior, U.S. Department of Transportation, U.S. Department of Commerce, U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. Department of Energy, and all applicable regulators in the states in which we operate.

In addition, each of these regulatory programs maintain inspection programs, under which our subsidiary operations are subject to spot compliance inspections by agency staff, whether announced or unannounced. Across the board, Arch subsidiaries maintain an outstanding compliance record with these types of outside inspections and, according to the frequent feedback we receive, hold an excellent reputation for exemplary performance with state and federal agency staff.

Waste materials generated at Arch subsidiary operations are strictly regulated and Arch is sharply focused on complying with all applicable regulations. Under this management and regulatory framework, Arch’s subsidiary operations staff receive training that help them to manage the various waste streams from across the operations, and to recognize the importance of minimization as well as the proper segregation and management of recyclable, non-hazardous, universal and hazardous wastes.

Arch subsidiary operations have systems in place to capture the value of recyclable materials. Vendor contracts are in place to recycle a range of materials — including various metals (scrap iron, steel, stainless steel, aluminum, copper and others), used oil and antifreeze, industrial batteries, plastics, and wooden pallets — to prevent these materials from entering the waste disposal stream.  

All Arch subsidiary operations work to maintain their status as Very Small Quantity Generators (VSQG) of hazardous waste. The USEPA has established this lowest of categories for facilities that produce less than 100 kilograms — which is to say less than around 220 pounds — of hazardous waste per month from all sources. Each Arch subsidiary facility that generates hazardous and universal wastes isolates these wastes in proper storage containers, segregating waste to prevent comingling waste types, to avoid adverse and unsafe reactions between potentially reactive materials. As part of the routine management program, environmental staff track accumulating quantities of wastes to ensure monthly quantity thresholds and storage time thresholds are not exceeded, and schedule waste shipment and dispositions accordingly.

As part of the regulatory requirement under the USEPA’s Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), facilities are required to track their generation, storage and disposal of hazardous wastes. Arch facilities track on a monthly basis the generation of hazardous wastes from routine operations, as well as the “episodic” generation of wastes. EPA has created a special set of regulations for Very Small Quantity Generators to allow for “episodic events,” defined as “any circumstance, planned or unplanned, that does not occur as part of normal operations and causes a VSQG … to exceed their monthly hazardous waste generation limit.” To meet the episodic event exemption to the limits, facilities are expected to have one or fewer episodic events per year.

Hazardous Waste Generation

for Arch and its Subsidiary Operations

(in pounds)

2016 2017 2018 2019 2020
2,541 3,680 3,728 4,122 3,553

Minimizing Hazardous Waste Generation

Arch Resources's Best Management Practice Badge Icon

All chemical purchases must be reviewed and approved by an environmental engineer before purchase.

Arch facilities work to minimize hazardous waste generation by buying products that do not have hazardous characteristics. This is accomplished by implementing Arch’s Best Management Practice (BMP) of chemical purchases — which requires all chemical purchases to be reviewed and approved by the environmental engineer before purchase — in order to minimize hazardous waste generation and ultimate disposal. In addition, operations are required to maintain detailed records of monthly waste generation, storage and disposal from “cradle to grave,” as EPA characterizes it. 

When hazardous wastes are generated and managed for proper disposal, Arch and its operating subsidiaries use only reputable national disposal contractors, with licensed disposal facilities and compliant management processes. Arch and its subsidiaries undertake triennial audits of their waste management vendors to verify that wastes are reaching proper ultimate disposal and that vendors are following proper regulatory practices in the management of wastes generated at the mining operations.

As indicated, most non-recyclable waste materials that are generated at Arch facilities are classified as non-hazardous, allowing for typical landfill disposal. That said, Arch facilities recognize that disposal of these non-hazardous wastes is expensive and time-consuming. Each operation strives to minimize waste generation and employs a variety of means to achieve that goal, including: 1) minimizing the quantity of purchased products to minimize waste generation, 2) recycling qualified materials, 3) working with vendors to minimize packaging, 4) buying, receiving and storing process materials and fluids in bulk to reduce or eliminate small-quantity containers, and the like. 

Arch strives to minimize its wastes destined for landfills. Arch corporate offices and many of its subsidiary facilities have programs in place to recycle office wastes, including paper, aluminum and plastic containers, electronics, and obsolete furniture items. (The distance from metropolitan area resources has created challenges for securing recycling services at certain mines, but Arch’s subsidiary operations continue to explore ways to address this shortcoming.) Each year, the company sponsors a programmatic electronics recycling pickup program to provide the operations with an efficient pathway for disposal, in order to keep electronic wastes out of landfills.

As a first step, Arch practices waste avoidance by working with vendors to package shipments of materials and supplies in a way that minimizes expendable shipping materials. A prime example of this is the elimination of wooden pallets when products can be bound and packaged for delivery using alternate methods.

Arch operations have systems in place to capture the value of recyclable materials to prevent them from entering the waste disposal stream.

Impoundments

Arch applies best mining industry practices and follows rigorously all regulatory-driven requirements for the geotechnical design of its tailings management structures, or refuse impoundments. Arch manages a total of 11 tailings facilities — which hold rock, clay and process water from the coal preparation process — across its operational portfolio. Of these, seven are associated with operating mines and four are associated with now-closed mines formerly operated by Arch or a predecessor company. All four of the facilities in this latter category are currently undergoing reclamation.

Each of Arch’s operations regularly inspects its impounding structures according to applicable regulations and inspection schedules. In addition to these required self-inspections, the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA), which is part of the U.S. Department of Labor, conducts its own frequent, independent inspections and reviews all documentation associated with Arch’s self-inspections. In addition, Arch’s operations are required to summarize and report on the construction, management, and maintenance of all impounding structures subject to MSHA regulations, and to submit a detailed annual report to the agency on all critical factors.

Beyond these regulation-required inspections, Arch engages an independent engineering consultant to perform third-party audits on all active impoundments to ensure ongoing rigor and attention to critical engineering details. These audit reports are provided to the operations and are shared with Arch senior management to ensure that any required corrective measures are addressed.

Arch’s tailings facilities completed all of their inspections and assorted internal and external reviews as scheduled during 2020. Arch has had no significant incidents at its tailings storage facilities in the past two decades.

TRI Reporting

Under the provisions of the EPA’s Toxic Release Inventory (TRI) regulations, Arch is required to evaluate and report releases of chemicals identified in §313 of the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA). Under the Act, releases are classified by the so-called “receiving medium” — which is to say land, air and/or water. The June 2019 USEPA “List of Lists” identifies the 1,179 separate chemicals regulated under §313.

Arch and its subsidiaries rely on an internal materials management system, where purchased products and inventories are managed and tracked, to identify any products containing one or more “§313 chemicals.” For those products identified as containing §313 chemicals, additional evaluation is undertaken to determine the total quantity of reportable §313 chemicals used at each facility each year. EPA requires facilities that use and/or dispose of greater than 10,000 pounds of general §313 chemicals — and smaller quantities of some specific toxic chemicals — in any given year to report those usages and emissions to EPA. Arch reviews all its subsidiary operations for use of these chemicals and thresholds, and reports accordingly.

Over the past five years, Arch has exceeded the reporting threshold — thus triggering EPA reporting — at only one of its eight subsidiary operations: the Viper mine in Illinois. (Viper was contributed to its new operator, Knight Hawk Coal, at the end of 2020.) At this facility, the reporting threshold has been exceeded exclusively due to the use of coal combustion residuals (CCR) as a structural amendment during placement and compaction of the embankments at its refuse facility — a use that is expressly approved by the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency. CCR is blended with rock according to tightly controlled engineering specifications in order to serve as a pH amendment and to aid in soil consolidation during construction. Several Illinois state regulatory agencies are involved in the permitting, testing and reporting of the chemical characteristics of the CCR materials to ensure their proper use. CCR is a common admixture used in the formulation of concrete and as an agricultural and foundation soil amendment, among other things.

Spill Prevention and Protection

Fundamental to Arch’s commitment to environmental protection is preventing the spill or release of materials or wastes into the environment. This commitment begins by Arch subsidiary operations limiting the quantities of inventoried materials stored onsite to the minimum necessary to operate efficiently. With that necessary inventory, Arch subsidiary operations conform to strict regulatory requirements and industry best practices for proper storage methods and locations, secondary containment, spill prevention, spill response, and emergency contingency planning. Prior to acquisition of all chemical products, Arch environmental staff undertake a standard practice reviewing the products’ chemical constituencies to assess the potential environmental and safety hazards as well as the post-use waste characteristics, to determine whether non-hazardous alternatives are available for the same application.

Proper storage and containment of bulk products is key to preventing accidental release. Ensuring that primary and secondary containments are properly designed, constructed, installed and regularly inspected ensures products remain contained and controlled. This includes considering the location of storage systems relative to available controls and potential down-gradient impacts, should an emergency condition develop. Arch applies specific practices that call for protective placement of tanks, piping infrastructure and facilities in locations that minimize the potential for offsite release.

Every Arch subsidiary operation has in place emergency response plans that address a variety of contingencies, including spills of materials that can potentially impact the environment. These emergency response plans identify the responsible personnel and their duties, internal and external notifications, response protocol, and actions required to protect workers, the public and the local environment.

Supplemental to emergency response plans, every operation that meets the regulatory threshold maintains a Spill Pollution Control and Countermeasure (SPCC) Plan, required by USEPA’s Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Act (EPCRA). These plans specifically require that all oil-based products and wastes be managed in a manner that minimizes the possibility for release to the environment, and address prevention measures, minimum facility standards, contingencies and response protocols.

Similar to the SPCC plans, the State of West Virginia requires the preparation and maintenance of a “Groundwater Protection Plan” (GPP). While the SPCC plans specifically address potential spills of “oil” products and wastes, the West Virginia GPPs similarly address any product/material that may “reasonably be expected to have an impact on groundwater.” Directly linked to the GPP program is the West Virginia Aboveground Storage Tank (AST) program, which requires inventory, registration and maintenance plans for specific classes of tanks.

In the past 20 years, Arch and its operating subsidiaries have had no significant spills. Since 2010, the company’s subsidiary operations have only had one spill or release that met the reporting threshold for required reporting to a state or federal agency. That spill was minor and was quickly and responsively cleaned up with no material impact to the environment. It did not meet the definition of Natural Resource Damage subject to assessment of fines or penalties.

In 2014 at the Beckley mine, a HDPE pipeline separated at a joint and allowed coal slurry to be released into an ephemeral stream and traveled off of the permitted property boundary. The release was immediately reported to state regulators and cleanup of the coal fines was immediately initiated under a standing contract with our emergency response contractor. The slurry material did not reach a jurisdictional waterway under the Clean Water Act and it did not meet the definition of Natural Resource Damage subject to assessment of fines or penalties. As a result of the operation’s quick response and effective cleanup, no violation or penalty was issued to the operation for the incidental release.