California Surface Mining Law
Full title: California Surface Mining Law: A Guide to Federal, State, and Local Requirements
THE FIRST AND ONLY BOOK that comprehensively addresses the regulation of surface mining in California. Covers federal, state, regional, and local laws and regulations along with relevant cases, and provides extensive citations. Explains mining-specific concepts and offers practical advice for understanding and complying with the law.
AN IMPORTANT RESOURCE for attorneys—whether for mining operators, public agencies, or neighborhood or environmental organizations—as well as planners, consultants, government officials, and interested members of the public.
CHAPTERS AT A GLANCE
PART ONE: Understanding Surface Mining
- 1. Surface Mining—Background
- 2. California's Mineral Production and Demand
PART TWO: Surface Mining and Reclamation Act
- 3. Introduction to the Surface Mining and Reclamation Act
- 4. Identification and Conservation of Significant Mineral Resources
- 5. Reclamation
- 6. Enforcement of the Surface Mining and Reclamation Act
PART THREE: Local Permitting
- 7. City and County Land Use Regulation
- 8. Surface Mining and the California Environmental Quality Act
- 9. Nonconforming Surface Mines
PART FOUR: Environmental Regulation
- 10. Air Quality
- 11. Water Quality
- 12. Wetlands, Streams, and Lakes
- 13. Endangered and Threatened Species
- 14. Handling of Hazardous Materials
ABOUT THE BOOK
- An introduction to surface mining— its forms, operations, uses, and applications
- State Surface Mining and Reclamation Act of 1975 (SMARA), including its provisions for mineral conservation, reclamation, and enforcement
- City and county regulations, including required local authorizations, application processes, the role of CEQA, and special rules and doctrines governing pre-existing or nonconforming surface mines
- Environmental regulation of surface mining, including air quality requirements, water quality regulations, federal and state laws on wetlands and endangered species, and handling of hazardous materials
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Derek Cole is an attorney with Cota Cole LLP in Roseville, California. His statewide practice includes advising clients on the full range of land use and environmental laws and regulations, as well as representing operators and public agencies in surface mining matters. In addition to his law practice, Mr. Cole has taught legal writing and research at the University of the Pacific McGeorge School of Law, where he received his J.D. in 1999.
The Legislature hereby finds and declares that the extraction of minerals is essential to the continued economic well-being of the state and to the needs of the society. . . . Pub. Res. Code § 2711(a)
With the words that begin SMARA, California’s Surface Mining and Reclamation Act, the legislature recognized more than 30 years ago just how dependent we are on mining. Today these words are equally, if not more, true. Nearly everything we use is derived from one mineral or another—highways, roads, houses, hospitals, schools, airports, cars, airplanes, computers, and televisions are just a few examples.
Yet, while mining is so essential to our standard of living, it is hardly a benign activity. Mining is noisy and dusty and can adversely affect its surroundings. Rumbling from heavy trucks and the vibration caused by explosives can be annoying. Ecologically, mining can degrade air and water quality, damage wetlands, and impair sensitive habitat. And, after operations are complete, mined-out land is usually not reusable, safe, and aesthetically pleasing, requiring significant restoration.
Because of these and other impacts, mining, while one of society’s most important industries, is also one of its most heavily regulated. A multitude of federal, state, regional, and local laws address its land use and environmental impacts.
This book discusses these subjects and attempts to speak to every audience. Attorneys—whether for mining operators, public agencies, or neighborhood or environmental organizations—will find the book most useful. It is clearly a legal text that covers the laws, regulations, and relevant cases, providing comprehensive citations to guide lawyers in their research and analysis.
But while that audience may be sizeable, the book is not a treatise. Nor was it written strictly for the legal profession. Instead, the author has tried to keep all audiences in mind, attorneys as well as planners, consultants, government officials, professionals, and interested members of the public.
To serve this broad readership, the text does not simply recite the law with strings of citations. Instead, each subject is put in context, describing what the law is and why. And because the surface mining industry may be unfamiliar to some readers, mining-specific concepts are explained. The book offers practical advice on a number of important subjects in an attempt to provide an understanding of the law, as well as guidance on how to comply.
Particular attention has been given to the book’s organization. The myriad of regulations affecting surface mining can make the subject seem complex and uninviting. As the adjacent chart shows, as many as twelve authorizations from seven separate federal, state, regional, and local agencies may be required to authorize a new surface mine. To help with what thus may appear a daunting subject, the book is divided into four logical parts, with each chapter covering a discrete set of topics. This organization offers an overview of surface mining while allowing readers looking for specific topics to quickly identify chapters pertinent to their research.
Part One is introductory, directed mainly to readers with minimal understanding of surface mining. Chapter 1, which explains surface mining in its various forms and how it typically operates, may be particularly useful. Chapter 2 describes its uses and applications, touching nearly every facet of our lives and creating an enormous demand with significant land use implications.
Part Two discusses the State Surface Mining and Reclamation Act of 1975, or SMARA. Chapter 3 discusses SMARA’s functions and the agencies responsible for enforcement. Chapter 4 addresses the Act’s mineral conservation provisions, describing California’s scheme for identifying and conserving significant mineral resources. In chapter 5, SMARA’s mine reclamation function is discussed, with a description of the mandatory process by which mined-out land must be reclaimed to productive post-mining land use. Chapter 6 covers SMARA’s enforcement provisions, focusing on specific enforcement responsibilities the Act imposes on cities and counties and its remedies to ensure compliance.
Part Three addresses city and county regulation. Chapter 7 reviews specific local authorizations a mining operator must obtain, the type of regulations embodied in the authorizations, and the process cities and counties must follow in considering mining applications. How the California Environmental Quality Act, known as CEQA, shapes the permitting process is addressed in chapter 8. Chapter 9 covers the special rules and doctrines afforded to pre-existing or nonconforming surface mines that are not required to comply with local land use regulations.
Part Four covers environmental regulation. Chapter 10 addresses air quality, focusing particularly on how air quality districts regulate particulate matter emissions from surface mines. Chapter 11 discusses mining and water quality through waste discharge requirements and NPDES permits mandated by the federal Clean Water Act. Chapters 12 and 13 address federal and state laws related to wetlands, streams, lakes, and endangered species. And, finally, chapter 14 discusses the handling of hazardous materials that may be used as part of a mining operation.
One final note—from the title, readers will understand that this book only covers regulation of surface mining. Underground gold mines were once commonplace in California, but few active underground operations are left today. Because such mines do not involve surface mining—the removal of materials from openings in the earth’s surface—and are not regulated by SMARA, they are not discussed in this book.