In Washington, "reclamation" means rehabilitation of disturbed areas resulting from surface or underground mining. The basic objective of reclamation at mines is to reestablish the vegetative cover, soil stability, and water conditions at the site. As a second beneficial use, mines are reclaimed for fish and wildlife, grazing, forestry, wetlands, and commercial and industrial uses.
Assuring reclamation of Washington’s approximately 1200 permitted mines is a key responsibility of the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Division of Geology and Earth Resources. The DNR administers the Surface Mining Act.
The Surface Mining Act is a reclamation law that requires a permit for each mine that: (1) results in more than 3 acres of mine-related disturbance, or (2) has a high-wall that is both higher than 30 feet and steeper than 45 degrees (chapter 78.44 Revised Code of Washington [RCW], chapter 332-18 Washington Administrative Code [WAC]).
The original Surface Mining Act passed in 1971 and was amended in 1993 to assure that every mine in the state is thoroughly reclaimed. DNR is responsible for ensuring that reclamation follows completion of surface and underground mining. The DNR has exclusive authority to regulate mine reclamation and approve reclamation plans.
Mine operations, which are all mine-related activities except reclamation, are specifically regulated by local governments or state and federal agencies exclusive of DNR.
Local governments must formally approve mine sites and/or the subsequent use of the mine site (RCW 78.44.091) prior to receiving a reclamation permit. This approval process generally makes local jurisdictions the lead agency according to State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) rules (chapter 43.21C RCW).
A quality reclamation plan is required for each mine, for which periodic reviews and revisions are necessary. These plans specify the permit holder’s methods for achieving the following reclamation goals:
- segmental or progressive reclamation;
- preservation of the topsoil;
- slope restoration such that highwalls are rounded in plan and section for all mines;
- stable slopes;
- final topography that generally comprises sinuous contours, chutes and buttresses, spurs, and rolling mounds and hills, all of which blend with adjacent topography to a reasonable extent;
- effective revegetation with native multi-species ground cover and trees depending on the municipality-approved subsequent use designated for the site.
The state surface mining reclamation permit issued by DNR to the permit holders applies to most of the surface mines in Washington.
Interactive Map: Earth Resource Permit Locations (ERPL)
This interactive map, which is part of the Washington State Geologic Information Portal, shows the locations of active permitted surface mines. Each mine site is tagged with information about the mine site.
WA ST DNR - GER
SURFACE MINING RECLAMATION
1111 WASHINGTON ST SE
OLYMPIA WA 98504-7007