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A Clean Water Act Primer For the Mining Industry

Richard E. Schwartz, Ellen B. Steen, Water Quality & Wetlands Regulation and Management in the Development of Natural Resources (2002)

After nearly 30 years, the modern Clean Water Act (“CWA”) is still evolving. This article will explore its changing jurisdiction and developments in key programs that significantly affect the mining industry. We begin with an overview of the key CWA regulatory programs. We then describe several of the major legal issues that determine whether particular activities may be subject to CWA regulation, including the meaning of “navigable waters” subject to CWA jurisdiction, the activities that can be deemed an “addition” of “fill material” to covered waters, and the various “point sources” that may be found in a mining operation. Finally, we describe the permitting requirements that apply to regulated discharges and identify anticipated changes in those requirements that will affect the mining industry.