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October 2003, VOL. 21, NO. 3

IMCC/MSHA/OSM Underground Mine Mapping Benchmarking Workshop

The Interstate Mining Compact Commission (IMCC), Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) and Office of Surface Mining (OSM) recently sponsored an Intergovernmental Benchmarking Workshop on Underground Mine Mapping in Louisville, Kentucky. The workshop took place at The Galt House Hotel in downtown Louisville on October 15-16, 2003. Approximately sixty-five people attended, representing IMCC, MSHA, OSM, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), and twenty states from throughout the country.

The first day of the workshop consisted of presentations by the federal agencies and several states, including: MSHA, OSM, USGS, BLM, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Ohio, West Virginia, Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky, and Utah. Presenters provided the history and overview of several underground mine mapping programs which are currently in place in their agencies or states.

On day two of the workshop, attendees engaged in roundtable discussions. Discussion topics included: “Acquiring and Preserving Map Images”; “Moving Maps to GIS”; and “Access/Sharing Information.” Federal and state representatives served as moderators and presenters for the roundtable discussions. An IMCC, OSM, and MSHA summary entitled “Next Steps: Moving into the Future” concluded the workshop.

For more information regarding the workshop, contact: Gregory E. Conrad, phone: 703.709.8654, or E-Mail: gconrad@imcc.isa.us.

IMCC 2004 Annual Meeting Scheduled for Virginia Beach

The Interstate Mining Compact Commission (IMCC) will hold its next Annual Meeting at The Founder’s Inn in Virginia Beach, Virginia on April 25-28, 2004.

The meeting will commence with a welcoming reception the night of Sunday, April 25. The IMCC Environmental Affairs Committee, Noncoal Section will meet on Monday, April 26 following a welcoming address (speaker TBD). The Coal Section of the Environmental Affairs Committee will meet on Tuesday, April 27. Resolutions and Finance Committees will meet the morning of Wednesday, April 28, followed by the Annual Executive Commission Business Meeting.

Social events scheduled during the meeting include a casual reception the evening of Monday, April 26, and the annual awards banquet, scheduled for the evening of Tuesday, April 27.

Further information and registration materials will be mailed in January, 2004, and will be included in the January issue of The Compact newsletter. Contact: Beth A. Botsis, phone: 703.709.8654, or E-Mail: bbotsis@imcc.isa.us.

Interior Department Corrects Erroneous Mill Site Interpretation

Assistant Secretary for Land and Minerals Management Rebecca Watson announced recently that the Department of the Interior is issuing a final rule to improve regulations on locating, recording, and maintaining mining claims or sites. The final rule includes a provision, based upon a new Solicitor’s opinion, that will restore the department’s traditional interpretation of the mining law’s mill site provisions.

According to Watson, the Solicitor’s opinion and final rule will remove unnecessary and burdensome requirements for mine operations while fully protecting the environment. This will also encourage a reliable supply of the critical strategic minerals that we need to support our way of life, the economy, and our national security. Watson said that the Deputy Solicitor Roderick E. Walston signed an opinion, concurred in by Secretary Gale A. Norton, concluding that the Mining Law does not categorically limit the number of mill sites for each mining claim. The Walston opinion reinstates the department’s prior longstanding administrative practice and interpretation of the Mining Law.

Watson also noted that the uncertainty created by the 1997 opinion contributed to a virtual standstill of mining operations on public lands. The 1997 opinion limited mine operations to only five acres of surface lands to support mining each 20-acre parcel of mineral deposits, regardless of the technical, economic, or geological necessities of a mine.

Before 1977, the Interior Department had interpreted and administered the Mining Law to allow mine operations to use the number of mill sites needed to support operations on the mining claims. As reaffirmed by the Deputy Solicitor’s opinion, while a mine operation is not automatically entitled to a separate mill site for each mining claim, the operation is not limited to a single mill site for each mining claim if more than one mill site is necessary to successfully operate the mine. The final rule will allow mine operations to use or occupy only that amount of mill site acreage that is necessary for efficient and reasonably compact mining operations.

OSM Presents “Excellence in Surface Mining” National Reclamation Awards

The Office of Surface Mining (OSM) in the Department of the Interior (DOI) recently awarded OSM’s 2003 “Excellence in Surface Mining” National Reclamation Awards to eleven coal companies that represented the best examples of mine land reclamation during the past year.

The Director’s Award for outstanding achievement in a special area of reclamation, such as the creation of wetlands, was awarded to:
  • Deer Ridge Mine, United Minerals Co. and Black Beauty Coal Co., Selvin, Indiana.
The National Award for achieving the most exemplary mining and reclamation in the country and on-the-ground achievement of the Surface Mining Law was awarded to:
  • Burning Star Number 5 Mine, Consolidation Coal Co. (CONSOL Energy), DeSoto, Illinois;
  • Cedrum No. 4 Mine, Drummond Co. Inc., Townley, Alabama;
  • Antelope Coal Mine, Antelope Coal Co. (Kennecott Energy), Gillette, Wyoming;
  • Squaw Creek Mine, Squaw Creek Coal Co. (Peabody Energy), Chandler, Indiana;
  • Caballo Mine, Caballo Coal Co. (Peabody Energy), Gillette, Wyoming;
  • Castle Gate Mine, Castle Gate Holding Co. (RAG American), Price, Utah; and
  • Monticello Mine, TXU Mining Co., Mount Pleasant, Texas.
The Good Neighbor Award for successfully working with the surrounding land owners and community while completing mining and reclamation, which is a new award this year, went to:
  • Bronze Award – Schmunk Mine, Bridgeview Coal Co., Farmington, Pennsylvania;
  • Silver Award – Cypress Creek Mine, Vigo Coal Co. (Koester Contracting Corp.), Boonville, Indiana; and
  • Gold Award – Kayenta and Black Mesa Mines, Peabody Western Coal Co. (Peabody Energy), Kayenta, Arizona.
For details about the award-winning projects and the award programs, visit www.osmre.gov.

BLM Presents First Reclamation and Sustainable Mineral Development Awards

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in the Department of the Interior (DOI) recently awarded the agency’s first “Reclamation and Sustainable Mineral Development Awards.” BLM Director Kathleen Clarke said the companies honored “are in the business of mineral development, but they have made the health of the land and its resources their business” as well.

The Hardrock Mineral Environmental Award recognizes achievements demonstrating continuous or repeated efforts to successfully meet or exceed federal , state, or local reclamation requirements with minimal oversight, and outstanding efforts to work with the public, DOI, or other regulators to further multiple-use objectives. The winners are:
  • Vulcan Morongo Project, Vulcan Materials Co., Los Angeles, California; and
  • Stillwater Mining Co., Stillwater Mining Co., Columbus, Montana.
The Hardrock Mineral Award for Community Outreach and Economic Security focuses on the concern shown for community responsibilities and the economic benefits of mineral development. This award recognizes the successful coordination of projects with local and regional stakeholders. The winners are:
  • Kennecott Flambeau, Kennecott Minerals Co., Salt Lake City, Utah; and
  • Phelps Dodge Miami Inc., (Phelps Dodge), Claypool, Arizona.
For details about the award-winning projects and the award programs, visit www.blm.gov.

OSM AML Awards Presented

The Office of Surface Mining (OSM) 2003 Abandoned Mine Land (AML) Reclamation Awards were recently presented at the National Association of Abandoned Mine Land Programs (NAAMLP) annual meeting in Louisville, Kentucky. The awards were presented by OSM’s AML Division Director, Dan Lytton.

The AML awards program was initiated in 1992. The program publicly recognizes outstanding AML reclamation and exemplary reclamation techniques. The 2003 winners are:
  • The West Virginia Office of AML and Reclamation received both the national and regional awards for its Taylor Creek Impoundment project in Widen, West Virginia. A 90-acre abandoned coal preparation and waste disposal facility that ceased operation in the 1950's was reclaimed;
  • The Indiana Division of Reclamation received the Mid-Continent Regional Award for reclaiming the Victory Mine Site, located just outside the city of Terre Haute, into an outstanding wildlife habitat.
  • The Navajo AML Reclamation Program won both the western regional and People’s Choice awards for its reclamation of the Cove 3 project, eliminating health and safety hazards associated with 1950's uranium mining.
GAO Report on MSHA

A recent General Accounting Office (GAO) report on the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) found that MSHA has “extensive procedures and highly qualified staff” for its coal health and safety programs and identifies several areas in which MSHA could work to improve its processes. The report was requested last year by Senators Edward Kennedy (MA) and Arlen Spector (PA). The intent was to assess “(1) how well MSHA oversees its process for reviewing and approving three critical types of mine plans, (2) the extent to which MSHA’s inspection process helps ensure the safety and health of mine workers, and (3) the extent to which MSHA uses its accident investigations process to improve the future safety and health of mine workers.” While generally positive in its assessment of MSHA’s ability to fulfill its statutory obligations, the report identified several areas where improvement is needed including resource allocation, inspection procedures, and violation criteria. The full report can be found online at: www.gao.gov/new.items/d03945.pdf.
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