The Industrial Minerals Law
Industrial Minerals (IM) are those geological deposits that are mined for commercial and/or industrial uses unlike other minerals such as coal, oil and gas that are developed primarily for fuel purposes. The regulation of Ohio’s surface mining industry is conducted by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Division of Mineral Resources Management (DMRM) under the regulatory provisions of Chapter 1514 of the Ohio Revised Code.
The IM law regulates the surface mining of sand, gravel, clay, shale, sandstone, limestone, dolomite, halite/salt, gypsum and any other stones, ores or substances of commercial value excavated in a solid state from natural deposits; however, it does not apply to underground mining, coal or peat.
Underground extraction of minerals (non coal) does not require a surface mine permit under ORC 1514. It is regulated in regard to miner safety by the Division of Mineral Resources Management Mine Safety Section.
Persons or companies wishing to extract industrial minerals for commercial purposes must obtain a surface mining permit issued by the Division of Mineral Resources Management and comply with bonding and reclamation requirements and other provisions in the IM law. The provisions of law are designed to insure reclamation of the lands after mining and to protect off-site properties.
Changes in the Law
The first IM law was enacted in 1974 and remained relatively unchanged until March of 2002 when the Ohio General Assembly passed Amended Substitute Senate Bill 83.
Key provisions of this amendment include the regulation of in-stream and near-stream mining activities. It prohibits any in-stream mining without a permit. In-stream permits may be issued for a limited two-year period. In-stream activities are restricted to periods of low-flow and to non-critical fish and mussel spawning season and habitats. New streamside prohibitions also limit activities in or near state scenic rivers and within specific minimum distances of larger streams.
The law also establishes requirements and procedures for minimizing impacts to ground water that may result from surface mining operations, including requirements for the replacement of water supplies in specific circumstances. Additionally, where blasting is conducted, persons using explosives must now meet certification requirements and more stringent ground vibration and air blast limitations.
Other provisions substantially increased the amount of bond required by mine operators to insure that reclamation of surface mining sites is completed timely and effectively. There are provisions requiring public notice and comment when new surface mine applications are submitted and the term of a surface mining permit is 15 years, with a right for renewal.
Compliance with the Law
The surface mining law applies to anyone excavating minerals from the earth by surface excavation methods including open pit mining, dredging, placering and quarrying. It does not apply to underground mining, peat or coal mining except when the tonnage of coal mined is less than one-sixth of the total production from the operation.
Exemptions to the law include the extraction of minerals by a landowner for his/her own non-commercial use on their property in a unprocessed form; the removal of minerals that occurs to a depth less than 5 feet over an area less than one acre in size within 12 months; the removal of minerals incidental to construction work where a valid building permit has been issued; borrow pits for highway construction with a Department of Transportation reclamation plan and bond; or borrow pits on Ohio EPA landfill facilities.
Prior to affecting any land where minerals are to be mined, mine operators must be issued a permit from the DMRM. An IM permit contains a complete mining and reclamation plan and map of the area to be affected, an application-filing fee of $500, an acreage fee of $75 per acre proposed to be mined, as well as a minimum reclamation performance bond of $10,000 for up to 20 acres affected plus $500 per acre above 20 acres affected to insure reclamation is accomplished. Upon receipt of an acceptable permit application, map, all bond and fees, a surface mining permit is issued for a 15-year period.
Mining without a permit is punishable under Chapter 1514.99 by a fine of $5,000 plus $1,000 per acre of land affected. Failure to perform reclamation or any measure set forth in the approved mining plan is punishable by a fine of up to $1,000 for the first offense, and a fine of up to $5,000 or imprisonment up to 6 months for subsequent offenses. The division also may ask the Attorney General to take legal action against anyone mining without a permit.
Operators must complete the reclamation of affected areas within three years following mining in compliance with the plans approved by the Division in the permit. This includes grading, resoiling, and establishing a permanent diverse vegetative cover. Highwalls may be left in consolidated material if they are compatible with the future intended use, and permanent impoundments left after mining must be designed to insure public safety.
The reclamation bond is held by the State and returned to the operator when it is determined that the reclamation completed is in accordance with the plan. If an operator fails to reclaim, the operator is issued an Order from the Division requiring the reclamation be completed. Failure to complete reclamation may result in a forfeiture of the bond to the State. The State then assumes the responsible for completing the reclamation.