Molycorp earns international environmental management system registration
Mountain Pass, Calif., Sept. 9, 1998 -- A company operating in eastern San Bernardino County is the first mining operation in the United States to earn registration of its environmental management system under the International Standards Organization (ISO) 14001 program.
The ISO 14001 program, adopted by the major industrialized nations in the world, specifies requirements for an environmental management system which can be integrated with other management plans to assist organizations in achieving environmental and economic goals.
Molycorp began working toward ISO 14001 registration more than two years ago. Company officials said the ISO 14001 program was embraced to help achieve environmental objectives.
Molycorp has faced a number of regulatory issues, including releases from a wastewater pipeline resulting in a clean-up effort directed by state and federal agencies. The company is implementing corrective actions ordered by the Regional Water Quality Control Board, and in compliance with other agency requirements.
"No program replaces operating responsibility and we are committed to resolving regulatory issues," said General Manager Allen Randle. "The ISO 14001 program is a valuable management tool for addressing concerns raised about environmental practices at our Mountain Pass mining operation."
Pankaj Garg, Director of Environmental Management Systems Services with Quality Advisors, Inc. of San Diego advised Molycorp on program development and implementation. He said environmental staff members have expanded technical skills, the workforce has been trained and "there is an increased awareness of what can be done to improve the environment" at the company since beginning the ISO 14001 program.
Garg, who works with many companies in the U.S and Mexico on ISO 14001 implementation, said the program is based on continual improvement of the environmental management system, "which, over time will result in improved environmental performance."
The system requires the continuous re-evaluation of environmental aspects and setting new targets as previously set objectives to mitigate a facility's impacts are met. "This cycle of continuous improvement brings about lowered environmental impacts and improved environmental performance," Garg said.
"This program provides standardized tools to identify issues and a mechanism for the company to take the initiative to address them," said Shannon Rogan, environmental engineer and Molycorp Coordinator of Environmental Compliance who led implementation of the management system.
The registration was awarded early this summer by Underwriters Laboratories, the 104-year old company best known for product safety testing and now also globally recognized for ISO 14001 auditing. Registration followed a rigid, independent assessment of all components of the environmental management system at Mountain Pass, according to Harry Forsha, UL credentialed auditor for the ISO 14001 program. The three-member UL Registration Assessment Team spent almost a week reviewing Molycorp environmental documentation, and at Mountain Pass operations interviewing employees and verifying in the field that the environmental management system is successful in addressing impacts on air, water, land and other resources. The team included a representative with mining expertise.
Randle said the ISO 14001 conformance does not guarantee that a company meets all regulatory performance standards "but it clearly demonstrates a commitment to satisfy those regulations" through the credibility of recognized international standards.
"Incorporating the ISO standards in an environmental management system provides the company an excellent benchmark and third-party accountability for performance," Randle added.
According to UL, the ISO 14001 standards help a company identify impacts and demonstrate to regulatory authorities, interested parties and the public a commitment to meeting environmental goals.
The international standard for environmental management systems was established through negotiated agreement by representatives of Canada, Mexico, China, the United States and nations in Europe and Asia, Forsha said. Molycorp also is registered under the ISO 9000 program, established through the same international framework as a standard for product quality control. As the only mining operation in the Western Hemisphere to produce bastnasite, Molycorp markets that raw material and its lanthanide products throughout the world. A partner company to Molycorp in Brazil, CBMM, was the first mining company in the world to receive the ISO 14001 registration.
Conformance with the international standards is monitored on a regular basis. Rogan said UL will assess conformance every six months and the registration will be subject to renewal in May, 2000.
Updated: September 1998