Image: "Photorealistic rendering of the proposed Pebble mine [in Alaska], based on the latest (2006) plan shown in permit applications filed by Northern Dynasty Minerals," Andrew Vernon, SkyTruth, CC BY NC SA
In the US, the federal Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act requires mining companies to obtain permits that include plans for how they will reclaim the mined land. Individual states with programs approved by the federal government can oversee reclamation within the state and issue permits. In general, states must allow residents to access public records of permits .
The purpose of this activity is to outline some steps that residents can take to find reclamation plans and permits and become aware of what mining and reclamation activities are planned. Because the process for finding permits can differ among states or locations, there's also an editable spreadsheet linked below where you can enter and find information for a particular location.
- A computer or tablet connected to the internet
- Access to public places where permits might be posted
Some states or regions have public "citizen's guide" resources that describe mining and reclamation regulations in the area. These guides often include information on how the public can get involved with different steps of the permitting process, including how to find and view permit applications.
First try searching online for "citizens guide mine reclamation" and the name of your state or locality.
If you find a "citizen's guide" for your area, look for a section or chapter on public involvement or public participation. That section will usually describe where you can view mine and reclamation permit applications. Here's an example of a guide from the state of Indiana.
If you don't find a guide for your area or the guide doesn't contain the information you need, try searching online for "mine reclamation" and the name of your state or locality. Among the top results, look for an agency that refers to mining, minerals, geology, and/or natural resources.
Many of these agency websites will have a section on mine reclamation. Look for information on where permits or permit applications might be publicly posted (public libraries, local newspapers, agency offices), or for contact information for requesting permit records.
If permit-specific information isn't available, look for general contact information for the agency or information on how to make a public records request.
Enter the information you find about how to find permits into this collaborative spreadsheet!
Link to editable spreadsheet: Where to find or request mine reclamation permits by location
Below are some resources that might help with next steps of reviewing permits once you've found them.
- Chapter 5: Reviewing A Permit Application, in The Strip Mining Handbook, by Mark Squillace.
- This guide from Coal River Mountain Watch has details that are specific to West Virginia, but the strategies could be applied in other locations.
- A First Look at Technical Documents: this workshop activity by Statistics for Action has a section on "Strategies for Reading Permit Documents."
If you have any ideas for how to improve this activity, please comment below!
References and more resources
 Chapter 4: Citizen Rights and Agency Proceedings Under SMCRA, in The Strip Mining Handbook, by Mark Squillace.