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.
Waste materials generated at Arch operations are strictly regulated and Arch is sharply focused on complying with all applicable regulations. Under this management and regulatory framework, Arch’s 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 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 operations work to maintain their status as Very Small Quantity Generators 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.
Minimizing Hazardous Waste Generation
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.
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 working with vendors to minimize packaging; recycling or reusing shipping pallets multiple times; buying, receiving and storing process materials and fluids in bulk to reduce or eliminate small-quantity containers; and the like.
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.
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 13 tailings facilities — which hold rock, clay and process water from the coal preparation process — across its operational portfolio. Of these, nine are associated with operating mines and four are associated with now-closed mines formerly operated by Arch or a predecessor company. In this latter category, three of the four are coarse-refuse or combined-refuse facilities that are now dry. All three of these facilities 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 2019. Arch has had no significant incidents at its tailings storage facilities in the past two decades.
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 relies on its 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 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 operations: the Viper mine in Illinois. 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.