The Mining and Reclamation Section conducts the administrative and technical review on all applications for mining permits. The time spent conducting the review depends on the type of permit, complexity of the proposed operation, potential for environmental impact and proposed reclamation. The issuance or denial of a mining permit is based on criteria set in 48-20-70 of the Mining Act.
Mining operations may need to obtain other permits from the Department or other state or federal agencies. For your information, below are some of the other permits a mining operator may need to receive (these permits are listed as a courtesy, mine operators are responsible for obtaining all required permits, certifications, etc. as required by Federal, State and local government entities).
- Wastewater or discharges of stormwater and/or groundwater - applicable NPDES Permit from SCDHEC's Bureau of Water.
- Rock crushing or screening - Air Quality Permit from SCDHEC's Bureau of Air Quality.
- All mining permits in S.C. Coastal Zone Area must be certified by SCDHEC's Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management (OCRM) as being consistent with the S.C. Coastal Zone Management Act.
- Disturbance or placement of fill in wetlands - applicable wetlands permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and SCDHEC's 401 Wetland Certification.
- The S.C. Mining Act does not supersede local zoning ordinances; consequently, mining operations will need to conform to local zoning or land use ordinances.
Certificates for exploration (Section 48-20-50) are used to determine the location of a mineral, the size of the deposit or quality of the ore. Exploration sites are limited to two acres or less and include methods such as open pits, trenches, open cuts or tunneling. Exploration certificates are not needed for exploration in areas already covered under a mine permit or for exploration by drilling or geophysical/ geochemical sampling. All exploration information remains confidential. The application fee is $300 and the application packet includes Application for Exploration Permit (Form MR-200) and a Reclamation Plan for Exploration (Form MR-300).
A $2500 reclamation bond is required prior to issuance of a certificate of exploration.
General Mine Operating Permits (Section 48-20-55) are issued for sites five acres or less and only mining of sand/clay and topsoil. No processing is allowed at these operations. The required application fee ($600.00) and reclamation bond ($10,000.00) must be submitted with the application Application for a General Mine Operating Permit (Form MR-400G). General Mine Operating Permits are valid for one year. The permit may be renewed annually by submitting the Annual Report Reclamation Report (Form MR-1100) and the $375 Annual Operating Fee. The Annual Operating Fee is required until the site has met the reclamation requirements and the permit is cancelled by the Department.
Individual Mine Operating Permits (Section 48-20-60) are needed for any mine activity not covered under exploration or a general mining permit (sand/clay, topsoil sites over five acres, any mineral, processing). Reclamation bonds are required based on the amount of land disturbed by mine activity. The application fee is $600. The application packet includes Application for a Mine Operating Permit (Form MR-400) with mine map, Reclamation Plan (Form MR-500) with reclamation map, tax map with adjacent landowner information, topographic map, letter from attorney stating the land can be mined, and a Land Entry Agreement [for Lands Owned or Lands Leased (Form MR-600 or MR-700). In-stream dredging of sand also requires the Supplemental to Application for a Mine Operating Permit (Form MR-420SD). Upon receipt of a complete application packet, the Division notices the request in the local paper and to adjacent landowners, appropriate governmental agencies and other interested parties. The Department asks for comments about the proposed mine which are used in reviewing the application and making a decision about issuing the permit. Upon the request of ten or more people, a public hearing will be held to receive comments concerning the proposed application. Upon approval of an application, the reclamation bond is calculated by the Department. Once the operator submits the reclamation bond, the permit is issued. Individual Mine Operating Permits are issued for "life-of-mine" based on the estimated time frame in the submitted reclamation schedule. Individual permits can be modified [Application for Modifying a Mine Operating Permit and/or Reclamation Plan ( Form MR-1300 )] or can be transferred to another company [Mine Operating Permit Transfer Agreement ( Form MR-1400 )]. These requests must be approved by the Department.
Compliance & Enforcement
Once a permit is issued, inspections are made to confirm the operation is in compliance with the S.C. Mining Act and regulations. All mines must operate as required by the permit document, any added terms and conditions, the approved reclamation plan and the S.C. Mining Act and regulations. Inspections may be either unannounced or scheduled with the operator. Inspections are conducted until reclamation of the mine is complete, accepted by the Department, and permit cancelled.
A report will be filed for the inspection of the mine. If concerns are noted, the Department will send a letter explaining the problem and what corrective action is needed. For certain deficiencies, the Department may send a 30-day notice which allows the operator 30 days to start the corrective action. If the operator does not act on correcting the problem, a Notice of Uncorrected Deficiencies, including an administrative fee, may be sent. If the problem is not corrected in a reasonable time, the permit may be suspended or revoked by the Department. The operator has the right to a hearing before the Department to discuss any enforcement or revocation action.
Any decision on an application can be appealed (see Appeals Process). If the Section has a valid mailing address, anyone attending a public hearing, sending written comments, or otherwise contacting the Department during the application review process, will be noticed at the time a decision is made.
Any decision by the Board of the SC Department of Health and Environmental Control may be appealed to the South Carolina Mining Council. The Mining Council is the ad judicatory board for aggrieved parties to appeal decisions made by the Department.