Section 9-16-91

Surface effects of underground coal mining; requirements; remedies.

(a) The regulatory authority shall promulgate rules and regulations directed toward the surface effects of underground coal mining operations, and embodying the following requirements. In adopting any rules and regulations, the regulatory authority shall consider all distinct differences between surface coal mining and underground coal mining.

(b) Each permit issued pursuant to this article and relating to underground coal mining shall require the operator to:

(1) Adopt measures consistent with available technology in order to prevent subsidence causing material damage to the extent technologically and economically feasible, maximize mine stability, and maintain the value and reasonably foreseeable use of such surface lands, except in those instances where the mining methods used requires planned subsidence in a predictable and controlled manner. Nothing in this subsection shall be construed to prohibit the standard method of room and pillar mining.

(2) Seal all portals, entryways, drifts, shafts, or other openings between the surface and underground mine working when no longer needed for the conduct of the mining operations.

(3) Fill or seal exploratory holes no longer necessary for mining, maximizing to the extent technologically and economically feasible return of mine and processing waste, tailings, and any other waste incident to the mining operation, to the mine workings or excavations.

(4) With respect to surface disposal of mine wastes, tailings, coal processing wastes, and other wastes in areas other than the mine workings or excavations, stabilize all waste piles created by the permittee from current operations through construction in compacted layers including the use of incombustible and impervious materials if necessary and assure that the leachate will not degrade waters below water quality standards established pursuant to applicable federal and state law surface or ground waters and that the final contour of the waste accumulation will be compatible with natural surroundings and that the site is stabilized and revegetated according to the provisions of this section.

(5) Design, locate, construct, operate, maintain, enlarge, modify, and remove, or abandon, in accordance with the standards and criteria developed pursuant to the regulatory authority's regulations, all existing and new coal mine waste piles consisting of mine wastes, tailings, coal processing wastes, or other liquid and solid wastes and used either temporarily or permanently as dams or embankments.

(6) Establish on regraded areas and all other lands affected, a diverse and permanent vegetative cover capable of self-regeneration and plant succession and at least equal in extent of cover to the natural vegetation of the area.

(7) Protect offsite areas from damages which may result from such mining operations.

(8) Eliminate fire hazards and otherwise eliminate conditions which constitute a hazard to health and safety of the public.

(9) Minimize the disturbances of the prevailing hydrologic balance at the minesite and in associated offsite areas and to the quantity of water in surface ground water systems both during and after coal mining operations and during reclamation by doing each of the following activities:

a. Avoiding acid or other toxic mine drainage by such measures as, but not limited to, the following:

1. Preventing or removing water from contact with toxic producing deposits.

2. Treating drainage to reduce toxic content which adversely affects downstream water upon being released to water courses.

3. Casing, sealing, or otherwise managing boreholes, shafts, and wells to keep acid or other toxic drainage from entering ground and surface waters.

b. Conducting surface coal mining operations so as to prevent, to the extent possible using the best technology currently available, additional contributions of suspended solids to streamflow or runoff outside the permit area (but in no event shall such contributions be in excess of requirements set by applicable state or federal law), and avoiding channel deepening or enlargements in operations requiring the discharge of water from mines.

(10) With respect to other surface impacts not specified in this subsection including the construction of new roads or the improvement or use of existing roads to gain access to the site of such activities and for haulage, repair areas, storage areas, processing areas, shipping areas, and other areas upon which are sited structures, facilities, or other property or materials on the surface, resulting from or incident to such activities, operate in accordance with the standards established under Section 9-16-90 for such effects which result from surface coal mining operations. The regulatory authority shall make modifications in the requirements imposed by this subdivision as are necessary to accommodate all distinct differences between surface and underground coal mining.

(11) To the extent possible using the best technology currently available, minimize disturbances and adverse impacts of the operation on fish, wildlife, and related environmental values, and achieve enhancement of such resources where practicable.

(12) Locate openings for all new drift mines working acid-producing or iron-producing coal seams in such a manner as to prevent a gravity discharge of water from the mine.

(c) In order to protect the stability of the land, the regulatory authority shall suspend underground coal mining under urbanized areas, cities, towns, and communities and adjacent to industrial or commercial buildings, major impoundments, or permanent streams if it finds imminent danger to inhabitants of the urbanized areas, cities, towns and communities.

(d) The provisions of this article relating to permits, bonds, inspections and enforcement, public review, and administrative and judicial review shall be applicable to surface operations and surface impacts incident to an underground coal mine with such modifications to the permit application requirements, permit approval or denial procedures, and bond requirements as are necessary to accommodate all distinct differences between surface and underground coal mining. The regulatory authority shall promulgate such modifications in accordance with the rulemaking procedures established in Section 9-16-75.

(e) Underground coal mining operations conducted after July 1, 1998 shall comply with each of the following requirements:

(1) Promptly repair or compensate for material damage to any occupied residential dwelling and related structures or any noncommercial building caused by surface subsidence resulting from underground coal mining operations. Repair of damage shall include rehabilitation, restoration, or replacement of the damaged occupied residential dwelling and related structures or noncommercial building. Compensation shall be provided to the owner of the damaged occupied residential dwelling and related structures or noncommercial building which shall be in the full amount of the diminution in value resulting from subsidence caused damage. Compensation may be accomplished by the purchase, prior to mining, of a non-cancelable premium-prepaid insurance policy.

(2) Promptly replace any drinking, domestic, or residential water supply from a well or spring in existence prior to the application for a surface mining and reclamation permit, which has been affected by contamination, diminution, or interruption resulting from underground coal mining operations. Nothing in this section shall be construed to prohibit or interrupt underground coal mining operations.

(3) Promptly correct any material damage resulting from subsidence caused to surface lands, to the extent technologically and economically feasible, by restoring the land to a condition capable of maintaining the value and reasonably foreseeable uses that it was capable of supporting before subsidence.

The regulatory authority shall issue such notices or orders and take such actions as necessary to compel compliance with these requirements.

(f) Notwithstanding any other provision in this chapter to the contrary, the remedies prescribed in this section or any rule promulgated under authority of this chapter pertaining to repair or compensation for subsidence damage and replacement of water shall be the sole and exclusive remedies available to the owner for such damage and its effects. Neither punitive damages nor, except as specifically prescribed in this section or any rule promulgated under authority of this chapter pertaining to repair or compensation for subsidence damage and replacement of water, compensatory damages shall be awarded for subsidence damage caused by longwall mining or other mining process employing a planned subsidence method and conducted in substantial compliance with a permit issued under authority of this chapter. Nothing in this chapter shall prohibit agreements between the surface owner and the mineral owner or lessee that establish the manner and means by which repair or compensation for subsidence damage is to be provided. However, the remedies prescribed for subsidence damage shall not be diminished or waived by contrary provisions in deeds, leases, or documents, other than such subsidence damage agreements, which leave the owner without such prescribed remedies. Provided, however, the provisions of this subsection do not apply to any actions brought for, and in which the trier of the fact finds, intentional, willful, or wanton conduct; provided further, that conduct in substantial compliance with applicable mining permits may not be deemed to be intentional, willful, or wanton.

(Acts 1981, No. 81-435, p. 682, §23; Act 98-140, p. 212, §3; Act 99-593, p. 1359, §1.)