(a) Coal exploration operations including the removal of coal samples for testing, assaying or other associated non-commercial purposes which substantially disturb the natural land surface may be conducted after filing a notice of intention to explore, including a description of the exploration area, the period of proposed exploration and provisions for reclamation in accordance with Section 9-16-90.
(b) Information submitted to the regulatory authority pursuant to this section as confidential concerning trade secrets or privileged commercial or financial information which relates to the competitive rights of the person or entity intended to explore the described area shall not be available for public examination.
(c) Any person who conducts any coal exploration activities which substantially disturb the natural land surface in violation of this section or regulations issued pursuant thereto shall be subject to the enforcement provisions of this article.
(d) No operator shall affect more than one-half acre in any one location or remove more than 250 tons of coal pursuant to an exploration permit without the specific written approval of the regulatory authority. The written approval may be conditioned upon specific performance standards, reclamation standards, and a reclamation bond as required by regulations promulgated hereunder.