Almost all human activities result in some form of air emission. To protect human health and the environment, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) and Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) have issued scientifically-based air quality regulations. These regulations and regulatory programs establish safe levels of emissions associated with activities from a broad range of air emission sources such as vehicles, electric power generation, the manufacturing industry and the mining industry. These regulatory programs require a permit to control regulated emissions to below safe levels, to track emissions, and to report to the IEPA. Like other industries, mining companies work hard to maintain compliance with their specific air permits. Regulatory agencies monitor the mining industry for compliance with air permits, and also conduct ambient air monitoring around the state.
Air operating permits
Mining operations in Illinois are regulated by the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA). The IEPA Bureau of Air is in charge of enforcing Federal and State air pollution regulations. Mine operators are required to obtain a construction and/or operating permit from the Bureau of Air for the regulation of pollutants generated by the operation.
Mine operators are also required to file an Annual Emission Report to the IEPA each year outlining their emissions based on recorded production levels and emission rate factors generated by USEPA research data. Operators are also required to submit reports to the IEPA when site operations deviate from the conditions contained in the construction or operating permit for the site. When new equipment is introduced into the production process, operators are required to notify the IEPA and may be required to test the equipment to ensure compliance with limits and submit the test results within a specified period of time.
Most emissions associated with mining and mineral processing activities are known as particulate matter (PM) or dust. Other emissions from this industry can include combustion exhaust because some mines use fuels to dry or otherwise process the mineral. Combustion exhaust can also be associated with equipment that use fuels to pump water or generate power.
Particulate matter or dust emissions
Dust may be generated by activities on a mine site that are potentially visible to passing motorists and neighbors. Mine operators use “best management practices” to control dust such as observing posted speed limits and ensuring trucks are not overloaded, thus reducing spilled product. Paved entrances, on-site water trucks, street sweepers, wheel wash systems, vegetation, and so on may be employed as dust controls.
Construction sand, gravel, stone (aggregates) and industrial sand (silica sand) extracted in Illinois have a normal natural moisture content between 2% and 4% which, according to USEPA research data, provides adequate pollution control to convey raw materials onsite.* Dust emissions from processing operations are easily controlled and the dust typically does not travel beyond the plant area. In addition, much of the construction aggregates and industrial sand mined in Illinois are washed at the plant to remove silts and clay before sizing to meet customer demands and therefore, produce minimal dust at the plant because the materials become saturated during processing. * (USEPA, AP 42, Fifth Edition, Volume I, Chapter 11: Mineral Products Industry, 11.19.1 Sand And Gravel Processing; Accessed 10/17/2014)