The Department of Natural Resources has the authority to regulate the reclamation of lands subjected to ferrous and nonferrous metallic mineral and peat mining operations. The regulatory activities have been delegated to the Division of Lands and Minerals. These include, but are not limited to, permitting, environmental review, inspection, and research. Reclamation is performed in order to:
- Control possible adverse environmental effects of mining
- Preserve the natural resources
- Encourage the planning of future mineland utilization
- Promote the orderly development of mining
- Encourage good mining practices
Mineland Reclamation Program
The Minnesota Mineland Reclamation Act was passed in 1969. Minnesota Statutes 93.44 to 93.51 authorized the commissioner to adopt rules providing for reclamation of lands disturbed by metallic mineral mining and was amended in 1983 to include peat. In 1981, rules were promulgated that directed the means by which a Permit to Mine could be issued for iron ore and taconite mining operations. These rules were followed in 1985 with rules for the mining of peat, and in 1993, with rules for the mining of nonferrous metallic minerals. The Mineland Reclamation Act provides regulatory authority for reclamation of areas subject to mining, such as open pits, waste rock and surface material stockpiles, tailings basins, buildings and equipment, and infrastructure no longer needed for any other use. It also requires revegetation of disturbed ground, and mitigation of impacted wetlands.
- The State of Minnesota has been leasing its iron ore and taconite resources since the 1890s
- Iron ore and taconite mines have produced 4.5 billion tons of ore
- The state has also had an active program of leasing nonferrous metallic minerals since 1966
- Additional historical perspective
Many of the activities related to permitting of new mining operations, assignments, or amendments are delegated to the Division of Lands and Minerals. This includes the entire period of operation from mine planning, construction, operation, and reclamation through final closure. Permit requirements for ferrous, peat and nonferrous mines are described in the Mineland Reclamation Rules Chapters 6130, 6131 and 6132 respectively. These rules were adopted under MN Statute, Chapter 93. Responsibilities for permitting include
- Processing Permit to Mine applications
- Issuing Permit to Mine
- Reviewing annual reports and operating plans for conformance to Permit to Mine requirements
- Reviewing and assessing plans for financial assurance and verifying reclamation cost estimates
- Reviewing and administering permit amendment proposals
- Reviewing deactivation and closure plans
- Evaluating operations for reclamation release
- Developing reclamation rules and amendments as needed.
Environmental Assessment Worksheets and/or Environmental Impact Statements are required for new mining proposals and are often required for expansions of existing operations as stated in Minnesota Rules, part 4410.4300, subparts 11-12 & Minnesota Rules, part 4410.4400, subparts 8-9. These rules were adopted under the Minnesota Environmental Policy Act, MN Statute 116D. Our responsibilities include providing technical assistance in the environmental review process to local units of government, other DNR Divisions, other state and federal agencies, and private industry. The Department of Natural Resources acts as RGU (Responsible Governmental Unit) when needed for ferrous, nonferrous, and peat operations.
Inspections of mining and reclamation progress (MN Statute 93.47) are conducted annually and as situations warrant. Reclamation sites need to meet vegetation standards after a certain number of growing seasons and are inspected for such standards.
When an area is no longer scheduled to be disturbed, reclamation is initiated. These sites are inspected the first year.
- Inactive sites are evaluated for likelihood of redisturbance.
- Vegetation establishment is initiated (i.e. seeding, fertilizing, mulching) the first planting period after the area is no longer scheduled to be disturbed.
- After 3 years, 90% ground cover is required for all areas at metallic mineral mines except slopes facing south or west.
- After 5 years, 90% ground cover is required for south and west facing slopes at metallic mineral mines.
- When repair or replanting is needed, sites are inspected again.
- During the 4th and 5th years at peat mining sites, a reclaimed area is required to have 75% live vegetative cover that is self-sustaining and comprised of wetland or typical peatland species.
- and 8. Within 10 years, all sites at metallic mineral mines must be similar to an approved reference area.
In addition to annual inspections, other site visits and communication between reclamation staff and company personnel occur as needed. If problematic or non-compliance reclamation issues arise, the Division of Lands and Minerals staff work with the company to resolve them. Enforcement action authority is also provided through the Mineland Reclamation Rules.
Wetland impacts that cannot be avoided by mining projects must be replaced according to state and federal requirements. Read more about the DNR’s Permit to Mine Wetlands Program.
Since the mid-1970s, the Division of Lands and Minerals has conducted research on the prediction of mine waste drainage quality, mitigation of problematic drainage, and reclamation of mine waste disposal facilities (MN Statute 93.001). Read more about the DNR's reclamation research.
Funding for the Reclamation Section comes from a number of sources, including the General Fund, annual fees (MN Statute 93.482) directly from the permit holders, application (MN Statute 93.481) and supplemental fees for new or amended to permits (MN Statute 93.482), and industry and other governmental agencies for specific research projects.