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SMGB IR 2010-07

A Review of Issues Pertaining to Idle Mines Under the Surface Mining and Reclamation Act - Testa, Stephen M. 
The State Mining and Geology Board (SMGB) has performed a review of relevant issues pertaining to idle mines as classified under the Surface Mining and Reclamation Act of 1975 (SMARA).  As of 2009, there were 1,070 reporting surface mines in California.  In both 2008 and 2009, 100 mines reported as “Active” but with zero production.  Statute defines these mines as “abandoned” at this point, of which 80 of these mines had no production for at least ten years.  Another 66 mines reported as “Closed- No Intent to Resume” in 2009, but have not yet reclaimed.  Currently, 97 mines should have an approved SMARA lead agency Interim Management Plan (IMP) but only 35 have them, and 35 lead agencies (more than 28% of all lead agencies in California) had mines that required IMPs but did not have them in place.  Idle mines, are defined in SMARA, as those surface mining operations where 1) mineral production has fallen more than 90% from the previous maximum annual rate for a period of one year or more, and 2) where there is an intent to resume surface mining operations at a future date.  Lead agency enforcement of the idle mine regulations is minimal.   Several important issues have been identified in the classification and treatment of idle mines.  A synopsis of these issues, and proposed recommendations for further consideration, are presented in this document.

SMGB IR 2012-08
Report on Survey of Lead Agencies Affected by the Surface Mining and Reclamation Act - Testa, Stephen M. 
The Surface Mining and Reclamation Act (SMARA; Public Resources Code Sections 2710 et seq.) provides a comprehensive surface mining and reclamation policy for the regulation of surface mining operations.  SMARA encourages the production, conservation, and protection of the State's mineral resources, and assures that adverse environmental impacts are minimized and mined lands are reclaimed to a usable condition.  In evaluating ways the SMGB and Department of Conservation can better assist lead agencies affected by SMARA, the SMGB conducted a survey of affected lead agencies between December 2010 and February 2011.  A ten-question questionnaire was forwarded to all 115 lead agencies.  Slightly over two-thirds of the Counties, and less than one-quarter of the Cities responded to the questionnaire.  Results received were compiled and tabulated.  Based on responses received, lead agencies affected by SMARA could be well-served by enhancing and expanding outreach efforts toward those lead agencies affected by SMARA, commencing efforts to streamline SMARA and minimize the amount of duplicity in the SMARA program, continuing efforts implemented by OMR to tailor workshops to the specific needs of its stakeholders, encourage lead agencies that do not have sufficient resources to oversee their respective SMARA program to forfeit SMARA responsibilities and obligations to the SMGB for a minimum of three years, and explore funding sources at the State and Federal levels for outreach and education to lead agencies and the public to fulfill the intent of State policy pertaining to SMARA.

 SMGB IR 2012-09
A Survey of California Surface Mining Operations: Satisfaction with Annual Mining Operation Reporting Fees - Testa, Stephen M.

Public Resources Code (PRC) Section 2207(d) requires the State Mining and Geology Board (SMGB) to impose by regulation an annual reporting fee on each active and idle surface mining operation.  Active and idle surface mining operations are defined in PRC Sections 2207(f), 2714, 2727.1, 2735, and Title 14 California Code of Regulations (CCR) Section 3501.  The definition includes operations conducted by public agencies.  As of 2010, there are currently 1,355 mining operations subject to the reporting fee regulation.  PRC Section 2207(d) states the annual fee imposed shall not be less than $100 or more than $4,000 for each operation. Statute requires that these amounts be adjusted annually for cost of living, as measured by the California Consumer Price Index.  The SMGB is currently considering the equity of the current reporting fee schedule.  In considering changes to the SMGB regulations, the SMGB conducted a survey of affected mining operations.  An eight-question survey was conducted of all 1,355 surface mining operations during the period of December 2011 and February 2012.  Changing the basis on which Annual Mine Fees are calculated, or increasing the cap for total revenues generated, was considered.  Raising the single mining operation cap to about $8,000, without changing the way or basis in which the fees are calculated, or raising the total revenues generated, provided a more equitable distribution of Annual Mine Fees, and most closely addresses the intent of PRC Section 2207(d)(2).

SMGB IR 2013-10
Roles of the Engineering Geologist under the California Surface Mining and Reclamation Act (SMARA) - Arcand, Will J. and Testa, Stephen M. 

Sections of California's Surface Mining and Reclamation Act (SMARA) addressing annual mine inspections, evaluations of geological and/or engineering conditions, and preparation of financial assurance cost estimates specifically mention licensed geologists or professional engineers; however, SMARA contains no explicit requirements for the services of certified engineering geologists. Engineering geologists are favorably qualified to serve both mining operators and SMARA lead agencies. Operators developing projects may reduce financial liability by retaining engineering geologists during early planning to evaluate sites for potential adverse geological conditions, and to propose feasible mitigations per SMARA's requirements.  Although engineering geologists are not specifically designated to conduct activities under SMARA, current standards of practice dictate that certified engineering geologists, or similarly qualified geo-professionals, should be involved in certain surface mining and reclamation tasks.


The Surface Mining and Reclamation Act of 1975 (SMARA) requires that all lead agencies that have surface mining operations within their jurisdiction have​ adopted ordinances in accordance with state policy.  The ordinance establishes procedures for the review and approval of reclamation plans and financial assurances, and the issuance of a permit to conduct surface mining operations.  The summary table is a listing, by lead agency, of all SMARA Mining Ordinances within the State of California.  It lists the specific ordinance number and its date of enactment, as well as the State Mining and Geology Board’s (SMGB) Resolution recognizing the ordinance.   Some ordinances closely follow the SMGB’s Model Ordinance.  Others have been modified by the lead agency to meet local needs.  All, however, are consistent with the intention, as well as the s​pecific requirements, of SMARA. This listing will be helpful to new SMARA lead agencies as they craft their own ordinances, or to current lead agencies whose ordinance may be out-of-date and need modification. 

Certified Mining Ordinances - Counties
Certified Mining Ordinances - Cities


Aggregate Resources in the Los Angeles Metropolitan Area by David J. Beeby, Russell V. Miller, Robert L. Hill and Robert E. Grunwald

The classification of aggregate resources in the three-county area of Los Angeles, Orange, and Ventura, was followed by a "designation" process by the State Mining and Geology Board that formally recognized significant deposits that could provide for future needs. Maps and descriptions of the deposits were placed in the California Public Resources Code and officially transmitted to those county and city governments having decision-making authority over the use of those lands. Those areas are shown on the map in red. To maximize land-use options for local governments, designated areas contain aggregate resources in excess of the region's 50-year need. Since the designation of the aggregate resource areas in the 1980s, about 6 percent of those resources have been covered by urbanization.


A summary of Designation reports and maps released by the SMGB are presented in Table 1, with respective links to the Final Environmental Impact Report, Designation Report and associated maps.

Designation is the process by which the SMGB determines that a particular classified mineral deposit is of regional, multi-community, or statewide economic significance.  This process is facilitated through analyses by the State Geologist and the California Geological Survey, and information gathered from local communities, the mining industry, and other governmental agencies, such as the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research.  The purpose of Designation is to identify those areas that are of prime importance in meeting future needs of the study region and that remain available from a land use perspective.

The objectives of these processes are to provide local agency decision makers with information on the location, need, and importance of mineral resources within their jurisdiction, and to require that this information be considered in local land use planning decisions. These objectives are met through the adoption of local Mineral Resource Management Policies that provide for the conservation and prudent development of these mineral deposits. 

One of the first mineral commodities selected by the SMGB for classification by the State Geologist was construction grade aggregates, such as sand, gravel, and crushed rock.  The importance of construction aggregate is often overlooked, even though it is an essential commodity in today’s society.  Aggregate is a key component in products such as portland cement concrete, asphaltic concrete (macadam), railroad ballast, stucco, road base, and fill materials.

California’s construction industry is greatly dependent on readily available aggregate deposits that are within a reasonable distance to market regions.  Aggregate is a low unit-value, high bulk-weight commodity; therefore, aggregate for construction must be obtained from nearby sources in order to minimize costs to the consumer.  If nearby aggregate sources do not exist, then transportation costs quickly can exceed the value of the aggregate.  Transportation cost is one of the most important factors considered when defining the market area for an aggregate mine operation.

Prior to 1991, the SMGB designated 15 areas within the state, encompassing 259,585 acres, as having regionally significant economic mineral resources.  Designation stopped when the costs of complying with requirements of the California Environmental Quality Act became prohibitive, and agency budgets were being reduced because of the “California economic recession” of the early 1990’s.  Since that time, no additional areas have received mineral Designation status from the SMGB. 

 Designation is an effort to conserve mineral resources in regions of expected rapid urbanization or other land uses that might prevent surface mining activities, and therefore result in a loss of the mineral resource to the community.  To avoid dictating to  local communities where future aggregate mines should be located, mineral designated areas generally contain resources (un-permitted deposits) that are far in excess of the region’s 50-year demand.  This attempts to provide maximum flexibility to local governments in making land use decisions, while still conserving an adequate amount of construction aggregate for the future.