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March 2007, VOL. 25, NO. 1

IMCC to Host Benchmarking Workshop on Subsidence Issues

The Interstate Mining Compact Commission (IMCC) will host a benchmarking roundtable discussion on “The Regulation of Subsidence Impacts from Mining” on May 15 and 16 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The workshop will provide an opportunity for state regulatory personnel to discuss specific, in-the-field case studies of both successful and problematic experiences related to the regulation of subsidence impacts. The workshop follows on the heels of an IMCC report released in November of 2006 which summarized the results of a survey of the states regarding subsidence regulation. That document provided insights into the approaches that various states are taking to implement state and federal rules related to subsidence impacts from mining, particularly with regard to high extraction and longwall mining. For further information on the workshop, contact Greg Conrad at IMCC at gconrad@imcc.isa.us.

IMCC Urges Congress to Increase Funding for State Program Grants Under SMCRA

The Interstate Mining Compact Commission (IMCC) recently filed statements with the House and Senate Appropriations Committees requesting a $7 million increase for state Title V regulatory grants under the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977 (SMCRA) as part of the Fiscal Year 2008 budget request for the Office of Surface Mining (OSM). In its statement, IMCC noted that the amount for state Title V grants has been flat-lined for over 10 years, increasing by only $6 million since Fiscal Year 1995. Over ths same period of time, coal production has risen substantially and OSM’s own budget for federal program costs has increased by over $25 million.

“Given the fact that it is the states that operate the programs that address the environmental impacts from coal mining operations, a similar increase would have been expected,” IMCC noted. “But instead, state regulatory grants have remained flat-lined.” IMCC noted that the gap between the states’ requests and what the states are receiving in annual grants has widened to over $10 million.

“The enormity of this funding challenge will become increasingly clear as the federal government is faced with the dilemma of either securing the necessary funding for state programs or implementing those programs themselves – at significantly higher costs,” IMCC stated. Several IMCC state representatives joined IMCC Executive Director Greg Conrad to meet with Congressional staff from both the House and Senate to discuss the state grant funding issue on March 6.

IMCC Comments on EPA's 2006 Effluent Guidelines Program Plan

The Interstate Mining Compact Commission (IMCC) submitted comments in late January regarding the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) final 2006 Effluent Guidelines Program Plan under the Clean Water Act. While expressing disappointment that EPA did not elect to move forward immediately with rulemaking to revise its effluent limitations for manganese in the coal mining point source category, as recommended by IMCC in comments submitted in November on EPA’s draft plan, IMCC noted that it was encouraged by EPA’s finding that “because of the potential for encouraging proper wastewater treatment, EPA will conduct a detailed study of the coal mining effluent guidelines in 2007.” In this regard, IMCC also expressed support for EPA’s intention to re-evaluate the manganese limits by taking into account treatment technologies, toxicity of discharges, costs impacts to the industry and bond requirements – all issues that IMCC had identified in its November comments as justification for revising the manganese guidelines. IMCC also provided detailed comments on EPA’s draft detailed study plan for the coal mining point source category.

OSM Moves Forward With Rules to Implement New AML Bill

The Office of Surface Mining (OSM) is moving forward with the development of new rules to implement provisions of the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act Amendments of 2006, which was passed in the waning hours of the 109th Congress.

The amendments provide for an extension of fee collection authority for the Abandoned Mine Land (AML) Trust Fund and for reauthorization of the AML program. Several changes were made to the existing statutory provisions that will require adjustments to OSM’s rules and policy directives, addressing such things as the AML inventory, priorities of AML projects, payments to states and tribes, and program expenditures.

OSM has met with state and tribal AML program directors on two occasions to discuss the provisions of the new law and to forecast adjustments to OSM’s rules – on January 29 and 30 in St. Louis and on March 1 in Santa Fe at the Winter Meeting of the National Association of Abandoned Mine Land Programs. OSM will meet again with the states and tribes to discuss the rule changes in more detail following the IMCC annual meeting in Indianapolis on May 3 and 4.

IMCC Requests Increases for MSHA State Training Grants

The Interstate Mining Compact Commission (IMCC) filed a statement with the House and Senate Appropriations Committees recently urging support for $10 million in funding for grants to states for safety and health training of the Nation’s miners pursuant to section 503(a) of the Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977. While supporting the Mine Safety and Health Administration’s (MSHA) request of $8.6 million for state training grants in its FY 2008 budget, IMCC noted that this amount does not consider inflationary and programmatic increases being experienced by the states, especially as a result of the new MINER Act passed by Congress last year.

“IMCC’s member states are concerned that without full funding of the state grants program, the federally required training for miners employed throughout the U.S. will suffer,” IMCC stated. “The situation is of particular concern given recent mine accidents and the additional training requirements that states have already put in place or that may be required under new MSHA regulations.”

IMCC Recommends OSM Reconsider Rules on Coal Refuse

In comments filed by the Interstate Mining Compact Commission (IMCC) on March 28 with the Office of Surface Mining (OSM), IMCC suggested that the agency reconsider the need for recently proposed rules on abandoned coal refuse sites. “The rules that are the subject of this rulemaking have been under development for 15 years,” IMCC stated. “While OSM’s rules have merit in attempting to provide incentives to encourage coal operators to undertake the remining of these abandoned coal refuse sites, we assert that, over the past 15 years, the states have already adjusted their respective programs to achieve this goal and can move forward accordingly."

One of the key mechanisms that the states have utilized to address abandoned coal refuse sites is the “AML Enhancement Rule” promulgated by OSM in 1999, pursuant to which these sites have been reclaimed when coal recovery is incidental to a government-financed abandoned mine land (AML) construction project. IMCC also expressed concern that should OSM move forward with the rule, it would unduly upset the current functioning of state programs. IMCC presented a listing of requirements in the proposed rules that are inconsistent or nonsensical when applied to abandoned coal refuse sites.

USGS Mineral Survey Highlights Increased Import Dependency

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) recently released its annual mineral commodity survey, “Mineral Commodities Summary 2007", which underlines the urgent need for action to reverse the nation’s growing reliance on imported minerals critical to the nation’s economic strength and security. According to the report, the nation’s net import reliance continued to grow in 2006, as the U.S. is now 100 percent dependent on imports for 17 vital mineral commodities, as compared to 16 in 2005. In 2006, Mica, commonly used to manufacture high voltage electrical equipment and oven-glass windows, joined the list of minerals the U.S. entirely sources from imports. According to the report, China and India, both major U.S. economic competitors, are two of the four leading sources of Mica imports.

Elsewhere, the report found that the value added to the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by major industries that consume processed mineral materials stood at $2.1 trillion in 2006, and that the total value of minerals mined in the U.S. in 2006 came in at $542 billion, a 10 percent jump over the 2005 value.

The report showed Arizona as the top state in terms of non-fuel mineral value in 2006, with $6.7 billion in production in 2006, accounting for 10.4 percent of total U.S. production. Nevada was second on the list, with $5.2 billion in production and 8.1 percent of total production. California rounded out the top three, with $4.5 billion in production and 6.9 percent of total production.

A copy of the report is available at: http://minerals.usgs.gov/minerals/pubs/mcs/2007/mcs2007.pdf .

OSM New Rule for Coal Mining in Tennessee

The Office of Surface Mining (OSM) recently published a final rule that is intended to give greater financial strength to Tennessee’s mine reclamation program and promote better tree growth on previously forested areas. The final rule will provide additional options for bond coverage for Tennessee coal mine operators by allowing operators to create trust funds or purchase annuities to pay for the treatment of acid mine drainage (AMD). The rule also provides more flexible revegetation requirements to encourage operators to plant more trees in their reclamation activities.

Under current rules, OSM requires operators to have surety bonds in place, often bought through insurers, in order to fund any unanticipated AMD. The agency will now allow operators to substitute interest-bearing annuities and trust funds, in lieu of surety bonds, to create a more reliable reserve of cleanup funds that will be less affected by inflation. These financing mechanisms will be managed by a third-party financial expert and will name OSM as the beneficiary.

The final rule also revises revegetation success standards for certain post-mining land uses in Tennessee. The new revegetation requirements, covering sites marked for wildlife habitat, undeveloped land, recreation or forestry, are expected to make it easier to re-establish the forests that existed prior to mining. The final rule requires a revegetation standard specifically tailored to the unique characteristics of each mine site and to the proposed post-mining land use.

Although the rules are applicable only in Tennessee, OSM’s policy and approach may be used as a template to address AMD treatment concerns and revegetation success standards in other state programs.

Army Corps of Engineers Re-Issues Clean Water Act Permits

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers recently published a set of renewed and revised nationwide (NWP) Clean Water Act (CWA) dredge-and-fill permits. The Corps announced the renewed and revised permits in a March 12 Federal Register notice, which detailed the agency’s decision to re-issue all existing CWA Section 404 permits and create six new permits. Included in the new permits are two that cover surface and underground coal mining reclamation activities.

The current set of permits will expire on March 18, and the re-issued and new permits will take effect March 19. The Corps is required to review, revise if necessary, and reauthorize NWPs every five years. The newly promulgated permits will expire on March 19, 2012. The nationwide permits are designed to provide a timely and cost-efficient method for authorizing activities that are similar in nature and have minimal environmental impacts.

The March 12 Federal Register notice notes that the Corps has retained the acreage limits contained in current NWP’s, however NWP 21, covering surface coal mining activities, and NWP 50, covering underground mining, were both re-issued absent proposed threshold limitations, which would have strictly limited their use. Of the six new permits, NWP 49 authorizes re-mining and reclamation of previously mined areas and requires that less than 40 percent of a project consist of new mining operations.

However, the Corps raised the possibility that regional conditions could be added to the permits to protect local aquatic ecosystems, such as “fens or bottomland hardwoods,” or to minimize adverse effects on “fish or shellfish spawning, wildlife nesting” and “other ecologically critical events,” according to a March 9 Corps release. However, such conditions would only be added following a period of public review and consultation.

OSM Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on CCB Placement

The Office of Surface Mining (OSM) recently published an advanced notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPRM) on the placement of coal combustion byproducts (CCB) in active and abandoned coal mines that is rooted in a congressionally-mandated study, but which does not propose specific regulatory language governing CCB placement. The notice, published in the Federal Register on March 14, is the result of recommendations made by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), which previously conducted a congressionally mandated CCB placement report. The NAS report recommended the creation of “enforceable federal standards” to govern the placement of CCBs in coal mines.

The ANPRM provides background information regarding CCBs and the legal authority and framework under the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act for regulating them, but does not provide specific regulatory language for actually regulating CCB placement. Instead, the ANPRM calls for comments on how several key NAS recommendations should be implemented, including site-specific performance standards; mandatory use of adequate monitoring wells; minimization of reactions between CCBs and water; and requiring that substantial use of CCBs be automatically considered a “significant alteration” of a reclamation plan that requires public notice and comment.

The ANPRM cross-references a guidance document which identifies existing permitting and application requirements in current performance standards that would, or should, apply to the use and disposal of CCBs in mines. In the March 14 Federal Register notice, OSM said it will accept comments on the proposed rule until May 14.

A copy of the March 14 Federal Register notice is available at: http://edocket.access.gpo.gov/2007/E7-4669.htm .

Federal District Court Ruling re. CWA Section 404 Individual Permits

The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia on March 23 struck down five Clean Water Act (CWA) Section 404 permits authorizing discharges of fill material associated with surface coal mining operations in West Virginia. OVEC v. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Civ. No. 3:05-0784 (S.D. W. Va.). The court found that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ (Corps) decisions to issue the individual permits did not conform to the requirements of the CWA or the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).

The court determined that the Corps’ underlying environmental assessment was inadequate, remanding the permits back to the agency for further consideration. In the case of each permit, the Corps had issued a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) meaning an environmental impact statement would be unnecessary. Likewise, in each case, the Corps relied on the fact that mitigation would reduce impacts to less than significant and a so-called “mitigated FONSI” determination formed the basis for permit issuance. In rejecting the permits, the court found deficiencies in the Corps’ impact analysis required under both the CWA and NEPA, but opted to allow the Corps to repair these deficiencies on a permit by permit basis as opposed to ordering the Corps to complete an environmental impact statement for each of the permits as the Plaintiffs’ requested. The Corps must now reconsider each permit application in light of the court’s opinion.

IMCC 2007 Minerals Education Award Winners Announced

The Interstate Mining Compact Commission (IMCC) recently announced the recipients of its ninth annual minerals education awards. Begun in 1999, the minerals education awards are presented each year in two categories: the mining awareness educator category and the public outreach category. The mining awareness educator award is presented to a teacher or school from one of the IMCC’s 24 member states that has achieved excellence in one of more of the following categories: provided educational outreach in an innovative manner that increases the level of understanding in the classroom and/or community about mining and its impacts; promoted environmental stewardship while enhancing the understanding of issues associated with mining and its impacts; promoted environmental stewardship while enhancing the understanding of issues associated with mining and natural resource development; and/or created unique educational materials or curriculum demonstrating the production and/or use of minerals and associated environmental protection. The criteria can be met through classroom and/or out-of-classroom (i.e. field trips, mine tours, etc.) activities. The winner will receive a plaque and a $500 gift certificate or cash award for classroom resource materials.

The public outreach award is presented to an industry, environmental, citizen or other group, or to a state government body, that has achieved excellence in one or more of the following categories: provided educational outreach in an innovative manner that increases the level of understanding in the community about mining and its impacts; promoted awareness of environmental stewardship associated with mining through active involvement of citizens; fostered cooperation and partnerships with diverse groups to achieve understanding; enhanced the understanding of issues associated with mining and natural resource development; and/or fostered public education through mine tours, visitor centers, community awareness days, career days, personnel volunteerism in the schools, maintaining adopt-a-school programs or education partnerships, or any other innovative initiative deemed deserving by the awards committee. The winner will be presented with an engraved plaque of recognition.

The winner in the educator awareness category for 2007 is Elizabeth Bartimus of Eisenhower Accelerated High School in Decatur, Illinois. Ms Bartimus was nominated for her dedication to teaching the facts about minerals and mining to her students and the community, and her creative and innovative teaching method. Ms Bartimus was one of the pilot teachers helping Caterpillar Inc. develop its Mining and Environmental Education program. She also developed a classroom newspaper project which she utilized in her own classroom and which will be part of a mining curriculum she is helping to develop. The students merged their many talents to design and create a newspaper related to geology and coal in Illinois. Ms Bartimus brought in a newspaper reporter and photographer to talk to students about the process of creating a good newspaper product. The students had to determine what was going to be in the newspaper, the assignment of jobs, and then had to find financing for the printing. The project resulted in “Coal Times” which includes articles on: “History of Coal in Illinois”, “Area News”, “Views”, “How Coal is Formed”, “Types of Coal”, “Uses for Coal”, “Mining Methods”, “Process and Transport of Coal”, “Coal and the Economy”, “Sustainable Development”, “Want Ads”, and “Coal Puzzles”. As a result of the project, students learned that their community has a rich history of coal mining. They also improved their reading, writing and researching skills, as well as learning how to work together as a team. Their newspaper was distributed to the students’ families and at the 2006 National Minerals Education Conference.

The winner in the public outreach category for 2007 is Caterpillar Inc., Mining Construction Equipment Division for their “Mining and Environmental Education” program, for which their motto is, “Changing Perceptions with Knowledge”. The program was conceived by Rand Broutin,Team Lead and Black Belt in the Information Technology Department and Gary Crull, Environmental Coordinator, both with Caterpillar Inc. The program was initiated on July 18, 2001 and has continued to grow and develop since that time. Messrs Broutin and Crull gained support to develop the education program not only from Caterpillar Inc., but also through collaboration with several other organizations, including local mines, the Illinois Coal Association, the Illinois Aggregate Producers, Certified State and Federal Inspectors, and the Regional Office of Education. They contacted teachers who would be interested in incorporating the program as part of their curriculum, as well as community colleges. A “Teacher’s Kit” was developed, which is distributed at teacher workshops. A team of teachers was gathered to help develop the curriculum and lead the workshops. The program includes hands-on workshops, mine tours, ongoing curriculum development, and presentations given at career fairs, junior colleges, and various national, state and local conferences. Along with mining, a focus on sustainable development and social responsibility is being taught through the program. Teachers are able to receive Certified Professional Development Unit Credits for participating. The program pays for substitute teachers so that regular teachers are able to attend the workshops. The program’s long-term goal of partnering with educational organizations in an effort to focus on mining and environmental education in the classrooms (such as the Illinois Science Teacher’s Association) is also being realized. The Decatur School Board has complimented Caterpillar on their involvement with the schools and handling of the topics. The program has reached beyond Illinois’ borders as well. Recently the Missouri Minerals Education Foundation has requested that Caterpillar’s team of Illinois teachers present at “Missouri 2007 Interface.” The presentation proposal has been approved by the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

The awards will be presented at a banquet held in conjunction with the IMCC Annual Meeting, April 29 - May 2, 2007 in Indianapolis, Indiana. For further information about the awards or the IMCC Annual Meeting, contact Beth Botsis at phone: 703.709.8654, or E-mail: bbotsis@imcc.isa.us, or visit our website: www.imcc.isa.us.

IMCC 2007 National Reclamation Award Recipients Announced

The Interstate Mining Compact Commission (IMCC) recently announced the recipients of its annual national reclamation awards. Named after the charter executive director of the Compact, the Kenes C. Bowling National Mine Reclamation Awards are presented each year to mining operations in the coal and noncoal categories that have demonstrated excellence in reclamation based on achievement in five categories: compliance; contemporaneous reclamation; drainage control; bond release (or reclamation success); and innovativeness.

The 2007 winner in the coal category is Associated Electric Cooperative, Inc., Thomas Hill Energy Center – Mining Division, Bee Veer Mine located in Macon County, College Mound, Missouri. The 2007 winner in the noncoal category is Kennecott Ridgeway Mining Company, Ridgeway Gold Mine located in Fairfield County, Ridgeway, South Carolina.

This year’s winner in the coal category, Associated Electric Cooperative, Inc. (AECI), Thomas Hill Energy Center – Mining Division, Bee Veer Mine was nominated by the Missouri Land Reclamation Commission, Department of Natural Resources for their exemplary reclamation which exceeded the state’s bond release requirements in terms of revegetation and postmining land use. Surface mining in the area began in the late 1930's and ended in the early 1980's. When AECI purchased the mine in 1980, the water quality of the South Fork of Claybank Creek was severely diminished. At times the stream was yellow from the northern edge of the mine site to the mouth of the creek due to the strong presence of iron under acidic conditions. For this reason, water quality was a major concern in planning the operation and reclamation of the Bee Veer Mine. Following reclamation, the water quality of Claybank Creek improved significantly and reflects the reclamation activities conducted by AECI. Improved technology allowed AECI to recover marketable coal from the coal slurry ponds at the Bee Veer Mine site. The new waste resulting from the recovery of the coal was managed and used to fill in some of the final pits that remained from the original mining of the area. Roughly one million cubic yards of slurry material was removed before operations ceased in 1993.

At the time reclamation began the Bee Veer Mine site consisted of well-vegetated spoils interspersed with long strips of relatively flat coal processing waste. The area was reclaimed using three different methods: conventional, direct seeded slurry cell and wetland establishment. There were six slurry cells reclaimed conventionally by covering with 4 feet of non-toxic cover materials and establishing a pasture land use. A network of drainages was designed over the main slurry cell to divert water so that excess water quickly flows off-site. Existing impoundments were improved to handle discharges and offer stability for changes in gradient. Quality vegetation and good ground cover was important in slowing the surface flow and percolation of water. Two slurry cells were reclaimed by neutralizing the slurry material with lime applications over a 3-5 year period of time and establishing a variety of warm and cool season grasses for wildlife. Heavy lime treatment directly addressed the acid potential of the site. Two slurry cells were reclaimed to wetlands where the slurry was neutralized and a variety of wetland plants were planted and established. Discharge tubes were gated so that the water level could be managed for wetland vegetation. Heavy lime treatment directly addressed the acid potential of the site. The wetlands are part of the upper drainage of Claybank Creek found in the northern part of the mine site and were significant in improving water quality and lost wildlife habitat.

The 2007 winner in the noncoal category, Kennecott Ridgeway Mining Company, Ridgeway Gold Mine, is located in Fairfield County, South Carolina, approximately 25 miles northeast of the state’s capital of Columbia. Kennecott Ridgeway Mining Company was nominated by the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (SC DHEC) for its innovative practices and exemplary performance in reclamation, including the on-site effectiveness of the work, the transferability or value of the accomplishments to other mining and reclamation operations, and the long-term benefits to the landowner and local/regional community. The $30 million reclamation effort undertaken by Kennecott Ridgeway Mining Company in preparing the site for closure is performing to expectations and as a result is achieving long-term stability with a minimum of maintenance and ongoing costs.

The reclamation techniques represent best practices and, in the case of the open pit subaqueous waste management and tailings facility closure techniques, are innovative and unique to the state and to much of the mining industry. The tailings facility embankment, constructed in five downstream lifts, was reclaimed following each successive lift until finally completed with the closure cover. The remainder of the 903 acres making up the affected areas were reclaimed concurrent with the cessation of operations. Reclamation of the site achieved a surface water management network of pit lakes, wetlands, and water management channels, which can perform to control storm water in statistically worst-case rainfall conditions. All water management channels and spillways were designed and built to accommodate a 25% PMP storm event of 11 inches of rain in a 25 hour period. The tailings facility closure cover and spillway were designed and built to accommodate a full PMP storm event of 42 inches of rain in a 24 hour period. Overall design of the constructed wetlands and channels was matched to modeled flow velocities as well as clay volumes needed to construct the tailings facility closure cover. In constructing the wetlands Kennecott Ridgeway Mining Company achieved a cut-fill balance matching the volume requirements of the tailings closure cover. The post-mining land use addresses the long-term sustainability of the reclaimed site as a center for research into ecological restoration, pit lakes, wetlands, and wildlife habitat by university students. The site vegetation was selected to stabilize the site and enhance wildlife habitat.

Innovative practices were developed and used in the reclamation of the open pits, waste rock disposal, and tailings closure cover. In the case of the tailings closure cover a cost savings of approximately $20 million was achieved by hydraulic placement of 2.5 million tons of clay to achieve the monolayer cover versus conventional load, haul, and dozer construction techniques. The innovative cover design is meeting performance standards, permit conditions, and community expectations. The long-term benefits to the community from the innovative reclamation on the tailings cover are measured in terms of environmental stability and in creation of an upland grassland prairie wildlife habitat unique to South Carolina.

Also receiving recognition for honorable mention in the noncoal category is Iluka Resources, Inc., Old Hickory Operation, located in Dinwiddie County, Stony Creek, Virginia.

The awards will be presented at a banquet held in conjunction with the IMCC Annual Meeting, April 29 - May 2, 2007 in Indianapolis, Indiana. For further information about the awards or the IMCC Annual Meeting, contact Beth Botsis at phone: 703.709.8654, or E-mail: bbotsis@imcc.isa.us, or visit our website: www.imcc.isa.us.

IMCC Upcoming Meetings Calendar

IMCC 2007 Annual Meeting:
April 29 - May 2, 2007
Embassy Suites Hotel Downtown, Indianapolis, Indiana

NAAMLP/IMCC Meeting on OSM Proposed Rules on Abandoned Mine Land Program:
May 2 - 3, 2007
Embassy Suites Hotel Downtown, Indianapolis, Indiana

IMCC Benchmarking Roundtable on Subsidence:
May 15 - 16, 2007
Sheraton Station Square Hotel, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

IMCC Mid-Year Meeting:
October 16 - 17, 2007
Marriott Park City Hotel, Park City, Utah
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