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Indiana Department of Natural Resources

Indiana Department of Natural Resources

Reclamation > Mine Regulation > Permitting Permitting

Permit Review Process

In Indiana , all coal mining operations are required to obtain a permit from the Department of Natural Resources, Division of Reclamation. All coal mining activities are included, regardless of mining method or size of operation. There are three major components to every permit application. They are:

The public may present comments on the proposed permit and provide site specific information to be considered when making a decision on the application. If you wish to read further on the information required for each section of the permit, click on the appropriate section above.

Certain types of land are not eligible for mining.  Learn more about lands that cannot be mined.

Pre-Mining Inventory and Maps

The following information is collected and included on maps and plans submitted as part of the permit application:

  • Subsurface land boundaries
  • Ownership boundaries of the proposed mining activities
  • Locations of all structures
  • Pre-mine land use
  • Soils and land capability
  • Major plant communities and wildlife habitat
  • Public roads within 100 feet of the permit area
  • Boundaries of parks, public lands
  • Historical sites

The following information is collected and included on maps and plans submitted as part of the permit application:

  • Archaeological sites, and cemeteries
  • Geological test borings and core samples
  • Monitoring stations for water quality
  • Dams, embankments, impoundments
  • Surface and groundwater
  • Coal seam depth, thickness and outcrops
  • Active, inactive, or abandoned underground mines and surface openings
  • Waste disposal areas
  • Pre-mining land slopes
  • Oil, gas, and water wells
  • Sequence of the land to be mined

Pre-Mining Land Use Information

In the pre-mining inventory, the operator must include the existing land uses and a description of the condition and productivity of the land to be mined. A map of land uses at the time of the application must also be included. The operator must also describe historic uses, if the use of the land was changed within five years of the proposed mining operation. When conducting the pre-mining inventory, a post-mining land use must be considered and proposed so it may be designed into the mine operation and reclamation plan.

Mine Operation Plan

A mine operation plan shows how the site will be mined; how the soils with be removed and saved; how water will be handled. A good operation plan will ensure that the land can be reclaimed as quickly and as economically as possible.

Soils must be removed properly. Productive topsoils must be removed; stockpiled; and the stockpile seeded with a cover crop to prevent erosion. Overburden of subsoils and rock are stockpiled separately and must be return to the mined coal pit before topsoil is returned.

During mining, rainwater and water that may seep into the coal pit must be collected in ponds and treated as necessary. No acid drainage is allowed into nearby waterways.  Similarly underground water is monitored to protect adjacent wells. Sometimes a stream that flows through the mined area must be moved so it is important that fish and wildlife habitat is considered.

The operator must also describe any blasting that will be needed to removed the coal. Learn more about blasting requirements.

Mine Reclamation Plan

As part of the permit, the coal company must show their plan for grading, soil replacement, and re vegetation to pre-mining levels of productivity. Rough grading of the mined overburden must be completed within 180 days of coal removal. There may be no more than four un graded spoil ridges behind the active pit unless a temporary variance is granted. Sometimes extensions are granted if there is a good reason such as poor weather conditions, equipment failure, or other unusual conditions.

The replaced overburden must be shaped to the approximate original contour of the land so that it drains properly and can be farmed. Many plans specify a crop of wheat or oats followed by a grass-legume mix for several years to prevent soil erosion and restore the soil structure. For prime farmlands, the soil must be able to produce farm crops (corn, soybeans, wheat) that are as productive as the pre-mined crops for at least three crop years.. The land will remain permitted until Division reclamation specialists are sure that the land will be productive. This may take 5-10 years after the land is re-planted before final bond is released.

Sometimes land is replanted to trees. For forest land use, there must be a growth of at least 450 trees per acre for a three-year period. Disturbed fish and wildlife habitat must also be restored.

Indiana mining companies have won numerous awards for their reclamation practices. Driving through southwestern Indiana, you may not recognize land that has been previously mined under modern coal mining laws and reclamation practices.

Mining Prohibitions

There are certain areas where mining may not be conducted, except where an operator can show valid existing rights to mine existed before August 3, 1977:

  • Within 300 feet of an occupied dwelling (unless allowed by the owner)
  • Within 300 feet of any public building, school, church, community or institutional building, or public park
  • Within 100 feet of a cemetery
  • Within 100 feet of a public road (except where an opportunity for a public hearing has been provided, and the Division finds that the public interest will be protected)
  • Within the boundaries of National Parks, National Wildlife Refuges, the National System of Trails, National Wilderness Preservation System locations, areas protected by the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, and National Recreation Areas designated by Congress.
  • Within the boundaries of any national forest without approval by the Secretary of the Interior
  • On publicly owned parks or any place on the National Register of Historic Places which would be adversely affected, unless approved jointly by the Division and the agency with jurisdiction over the lands in question