(a) No person shall engage in surface coal mining operations at a particular location except as a subcontractor of the permittee of that location until such person has been issued a permit by the regulatory authority for that location in accordance with the provisions of this section. The term of a permit shall not exceed five years and shall authorize the permittee to engage in surface coal mining operations within the permitted area, unless sooner suspended or revoked in accordance with the provisions of this article. However, if the applicant demonstrates that a specified longer term is reasonably needed to allow the applicant to obtain the necessary financing for equipment and the opening of the operation and that the application is full and complete for such specified longer term, the regulatory authority may grant a permit for such longer term. A successor in interest of a permittee who applies for a new permit within 30 days of succeeding of such interest and who is able to obtain the equivalent bond coverage of the original permittee may continue surface coal mining and reclamation operations according to the approved mining and reclamation plan of the original permittee until such successor's application is granted or denied. If a permittee qualified under this article succeeds another at any uncompleted operation by sale, assignment, lease or otherwise, the director may release the first permittee from all liability for permit and bond requirements of this article after the successor permittee has posted adequate bond and the successor permittee assumes full liability for mining and reclamation procedures established herein.
(b) A permit shall terminate prior to its expiration date if the permittee has not commenced the surface coal mining operations covered by such permit within 3 years of the issuance of the permit; provided, that the regulatory authority may grant reasonable extensions of time upon a showing that such extensions are necessary by reason of litigation precluding such commencement or threatening substantial economic loss to the permittee, or by reason of conditions beyond the control and without the fault or negligence of the permittee; provided further for the purposes of this section, that with respect to coal to be mined for use in a synthetic fuel facility or specific major electric generating facility, the permittee shall be deemed to have commenced surface mining operations at such time as the construction of the synthetic fuel or generating facility as initiated.
(c) Any valid permit issued pursuant to this article shall carry with it the right of successive renewal upon expiration with respect to areas within the boundaries of the existing permit.
(1) The holders of the permit may apply for renewal and such renewal shall be issued (provided that on application for renewal the burden shall be on the opponents of renewal), subsequent to fulfillment of the public notice requirements unless it is established that and written findings by the regulatory authority are made that:
a. The terms and conditions of the existing permit are not being satisfactorily met;
b. The present surface coal mining and reclamation operation is not in compliance with the environmental protection standards of this article; or
c. The renewal requested substantially jeopardizes the permittee's or operator's continuing responsibility on existing permit areas;
d. The permittee has not provided evidence that the performance bond in effect for said operation will continue in full force and effect for any renewal requested in such application as well as any additional bond the regulatory authority might require; or
e. Any additional revised or updated information required by the regulatory authority has not been provided. Prior to the approval of any renewal of a permit, the regulatory authority shall provide notice to the appropriate public authorities.
(2) If an application for renewal of a valid permit includes a proposal to extend the mining operation beyond the boundaries authorized in the existing permit, the portion of the application for renewal of a valid permit which addresses any new land areas shall be subject to the full standards applicable to new applications under this article.
(3) Any permit renewal shall be for a term not to exceed the period of the original permit established by this article. Application for permit renewal shall be made at least 120 days prior to the expiration of the valid permit.
(d) Not later than two months following the approval of the state regulatory program pursuant to Section 503 of Public Law 95-87, 30 U.S.C. § 1253, regardless of litigation contesting that approval, all operators of surface coal mines in expectation of operating such mines after the expiration of eight months from the approval of a state regulatory program shall file an application for a permit with the regulatory authority. Such application shall cover those lands to be mined after the expiration of eight months from the approval of a state regulatory program. The regulatory authority shall process such applications and grant or deny a permit within eight months after the date of approval of the state regulatory program, unless specially enjoined by a court of competent jurisdiction, but in no case later than 42 months from the effective date of this article.