Lead Agency Fees for Administration of SMARA Programs

Written by Dennis Fransway.

EnviroMINE conducted a survey of lead agencies to determine the amount each charge to implement their Surface Mining and Reclamation Act of 1975 (SMARA) program. SMARA requires lead agencies review proposed mining applications for land use permits and/or reclamation plans (or amendments thereto), submit reclamation plans and financial assurances to the State for technical review and comment prior to approval, annually review financial assurances, annually inspect mining operations for compliance, and take enforcement actions where necessary. Section §2207(e) of SMARA indicates the lead agency may impose a fee upon each mining operation to cover the reasonable costs incurred by implementing the program.

The EnviroMINE survey was conducted to ascertain the range of fees charged throughout the State. Funding sources for these programs include General Fund outlays, fixed-fee assessments to the mine operator, lead agency cost recovery charges, and/or per-ton assessments.

In order to identify how mine operators are charged for the SMARA program, EnviroMINE developed a short survey and requested input from all SMARA lead agencies in the State. Initially, the response to the survey was minimal; however, approximately 52% of the lead agencies responded by the time the survey closed.

The results of the survey may be reviewed here.

The methods of recovering funds for the SMARA program and the rates charged to mine operators vary considerably across the State. In some jurisdictions, SMARA fees are not charged. In others, the rates cover all costs associated with administering SMARA, and also contribute significant revenues to the jurisdiction’s General Fund. As an example, some lead agencies charge local taxes or fees on a per ton basis for extraction and occasionally for processing.

Before drawing too many conclusions from the results of this survey, a word of caution is necessary. The purpose of EnviroMINE’s survey is to simply identify the methods and rates charged to mine operators by lead agencies. EnviroMINE did not try to evaluate lead agencies’ complete SMARA budget, aggregate market demand or aggregate costs associated with recovering resources in those jurisdictions.

Dennis Fransway is an Associate Scientist for EnviroMINE, Inc.