Land Reclamation Program

Industrial Mineral Permitting

Amendments made in 1990 to the Land Reclamation Act (Missouri’s industrial minerals mining law) improved the requirements to be met for completing industrial mineral (IM) permit and reclamation processes. Industrial Minerals are gravel, limestone, granite, traprock, tar sands, clay, barite, sandstone, oil shale, sand and shale.

Industrial mineral mining permits are issued to cover only a 12-month period of time. These permits must be continually renewed until the Land Reclamation Commission deems all mined land covered by the permit is fully reclaimed. There have been about 700 new or renewed permits issued in the past two fiscal years. In addition to the new and renewed permits, staff spent a considerable amount of time reviewing other permit actions which include permit transfers, expansions and amendments.

The fees collected from industrial mineral permits are utilized to conduct the necessary regulatory functions. These functions include managing both the permitting, and inspection and enforcement of industrial mineral mining companies. Completing reviews on approximately 350 permit actions each year while conducting necessary inspections with limited staff allocation continues to be a challenging goal for the program.

The Land Reclamation Program continues to look for ways to improve its methods of helping the public to understand the IM permitting procedures. For the past several years, citizens living near proposed mines have requested about ten to fifteen public hearings per year on the issuance of mining permits. Because of the precise criteria established in the Land Reclamation Act, the Land Reclamation Commission has been prohibited from granting any hearings, until the first request for a hearing was approved in May 1998. The hearing on the issuance of this permit has been held, however, the final decision on the issuance of the permit remains under appeal.

It is probable that requests for hearings, which require a tremendous amount of staff time to address, will become increasingly common as mining companies look to open sites in, and close to, heavily populated areas. New sites and expansions to existing sites are requested in order to provide building commodities to meet the needs and demands of on-going and new construction. It follows that a corresponding increase in the amount of Land Reclamation staff time will have to be spent on any realized increases in the number of hearing requests. It is likely that changes will be implemented to associated statutes, rules, or internal policies in order for the Land Reclamation Program to better respond to the needs of the environment, the citizens of Missouri, and the mining companies on industrial mineral-related issues.

Routinely, many of the concerns brought to the Land Reclamation Commission by local citizens are about issues outside the regulatory authority provided to the program through The Land Reclamation Act. These issues include concerns about blasting, safety on public roads and the mine’s effect on property values. Even so, the commission has allowed all citizens who have requested hearings under the proper circumstances to personally appear at regularly scheduled public meetings to express their concerns. While the constraints in the laws have prohibited the commission from denying permits, this regular contact with the public has brought an acute awareness to the commission about what is most troubling to the citizens. In return, the public has an opportunity to learn more about the permitting and reclamation requirements under the Land Reclamation Act. Continued contact of this sort will certainly help pave the way for the citizens to resolve their concerns about mining.

Industrial Minerals Inspection

The state is divided into seven geographic regions with one inspector/permit reviewer assigned to each area. Since these inspectors have to conduct other duties related to the permitting of industrial minerals operations and inspections of coal mines and metallic mineral mine sites, they are limited in the amount of industrial minerals inspections they can perform in a given year. The operations range in size from more than 300-acre limestone quarries to small one-acre gravel pits.

Limestone Mine in Jasper County - Active Mine.
Limestone Mine in Jasper County - Active Mine

Inspections typically fit into one of three categories: regular inspection, complaint inspection or bond release inspection. Regular inspections are conducted to determine if an operator is in compliance with the approved permit and the applicable performance requirements of the Land Reclamation Act. Performance requirements checked by inspectors include timeliness of reclamation, safety barriers, lateral support (i.e. lateral distances from excavations to public road right-of-ways), erosion and siltation control, grading, topsoil handling and revegetation. Inspectors also evaluate each mine site to ensure that all mining disturbance is confined to the permitted and bonded area and that the approved post-mining land uses are being established. Complaint inspections are conducted after the Program receives notification from the public that an industrial minerals operation may be in violation of the Land Reclamation Act. These complaints are received by phone, email, or by regular mail. Complaints filed by citizens may involve blasting, noise, truck traffic, water pollution, erosion or siltation. Following an investigation, the inspector and operator are often successful in resolving a citizen’s complaint in a timely manner. However, many public complaints related to mining operations, such as blasting and noise, are not regulated by the Land Reclamation Program and are referred to the appropriate regulatory authority.

Limestone Mine in Jasper County - Reclaimed to Water Impoundment.
Limestone Mine in Jasper County - Reclaimed to Water
Impoundment

Bond release inspections are conducted at the operator’s request when reclamation has been completed. The focus of the bond release inspection is to determine if the mine site has been reclaimed in accordance with the reclamation plan. The inspector also must evaluate if the operator has established the designated post-mining land use(s). Post mining land uses may be designated as wildlife habitat, agricultural, development/industrial or water impoundment. When mined land is properly reclaimed, a recommendation for bond release is made to the Land Reclamation Commission. If approved, the reclamation bond is released back to the operator. If the request for bond release is denied, the operator does have the right to request that a formal hearing be held before the Land Reclamation Commission to contest the denial. The landowner also has the right to request a hearing if they believe that the reclamation has not been completed properly.

Fireclay Mine in Osage County - Prereclamation.
Fireclay Mine in Osage County - Prereclamation

Often violations observed during an inspection are eliminated through the use of Conference, Conciliation and Persuasion (CCandP). This is a process where the operator is encouraged to correct a non-compliance through voluntary action and is used normally in cases of relatively minor non-compliance. If attempts to correct a violation through CCandP are not successful, a notice of violation is issued to the operator.

Fireclay Mine in Osage County - Postreclamation.
Fireclay Mine in Osage County - Postreclamation

 

The enforcement powers of the Land Reclamation Commission were enhanced in two significant ways by the 1990 revisions to the Land Reclamation Act. The commission now has the power to impose administrative penalties when notices of violation are issued, and they have the option of referring civil actions to the Cole County Court rather than the county in which the violation occurred. Such powers enable much more prompt and vigorous action against violators than in the past.

An increased number of site inspections at industrial minerals operations carry the potential for an increase in enforcement activity during the coming year. Industrial mineral operators who are not thoroughly familiar with the requirements of the Act risk inadvertent non-compliance. Only through close coordination with Land Reclamation Program personnel are potential enforcement actions avoided or minimized.

In-Stream Sand and Gravel Mining

One of the most prevalent types of mining in Missouri, as far as the number of sites, is the "in-stream" removal of sand and gravel. Numerous operators across the entire state use sand and gravel deposits, called gravel or sand "bars", as a source of aggregate material.

During the 1990’s this activity underwent several changes in regulatory control within Missouri. In the early 1990’s, the Land Reclamation Program was the permitting and enforcement authority that both issued permits for this type of mining activity and also oversaw the proper removal of sand and gravel from Missouri’s streams. In the mid 1990’s, the regulation of this activity was taken up by the Army Corps of Engineers who basically took over the process of permitting and inspecting these mining facilities. The Army Corps of Engineers lost their jurisdiction over this activity in late 1998 owing to a ruling by the U.S. District Court of Appeals. The court found that "de-minimus" or incidental fall back of sand and gravel into the stream from which it was being excavated did not constitute the placement of fill by the mining operation. Hence, the court ruled that the Army Corps of Engineers had exceeded their authority in requiring a permit for this activity.

In January 1999, the Land Reclamation Program resumed the former position of the regulatory authority over this type of mining activity and bases this authority upon the provision of the state’s Land Reclamation Act. Approximately 150 permits were re-issued to the mining industry during the early months of 1999 by the Land Reclamation Program to take the place of the existing Army Corps of Engineer’s permits. This responsibility continues to the present day on the part of the Land Reclamation Program with approximately 200 mining permits issued.