These laws are more important today than ever before with climate compounding what were concerns in the 1960s and 1970s; today require caution in changing anything except to be more protective.
Some major federal laws and regulations affecting the mineral industry include the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA), commonly known as Superfund, enacted in 1980. This law requires operations to report releases of hazardous substances to the environment and requires cleanup of sites where hazardous substances are found. The Superfund program was established to locate, investigate, and clean up the worst abandoned hazardous waste sites nationwide and is currently being used by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to clean up mineral-related contamination at numerous locations. The Federal Water Pollution Control Act, commonly referred to as the Clean Water Act, came into effect in 1977. The act requires mining operations to meet standards for surface water quality and for controlling discharges to surface water. The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), enacted in 1976, regulates the generation, storage, and disposal of solid waste and hazardous waste, using a "cradle-to-grave" system, meaning that these wastes are governed from the point of generation to disposal. The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), enacted in 1970, requires federal agencies to prepare EIS for major federal actions that may significantly affect the environment. These procedures exist to ensure that environmental information is available to public officials and citizens before actions are taken. NEPA applies to mining operations requiring federal approval.