(Adopted November 1994; Revised March 1996)

(1) What is an Active Mining Operation?

Surface mining operations are defined as: "...all, or any part of, the process involved

in the mining of minerals on mined lands by removing overburden and mining directly from

the mineral deposits, open-pit mining of minerals naturally exposed, mining by the auger

method, dredging and quarrying, or surface work incident to an underground mine."

Surface mining operations include, but are not limited to, inplace distillation or retorting or

leaching, the production and disposal of mining waste, prospecting and exploratory

activities, borrow pitting, streambed skimming, and segregation and stockpiling of mined

materials (and recovery of same). Surface mining operations are "active" if engaged in

any of these activities on a continuous or intermittent basis, so long as interruptions in

mining activities do not exceed one year.

Reference: SMARA Section 2735 and California Code of Regulations Section 3501

(2) What is an "Idle" Mining Operation?

A surface mining operation is "idle" when operations are curtailed, for a period of

one year or more, by more than 90 percent of the previous maximum annual mineral

production, and where there is an intent to resume surface mining operations at a future

date. A surface mine is NOT "idle" in this scenario of there is NO intent to resume

operations. When there is no intent to resume operations, the mine is considered to be

either "active" and reclaiming, or "abandoned."

Reference: SMARA Section 2727.1

(3) What is the purpose of an Interim Management Plan?

When, for various reasons, a surface mining operation must significantly curtail

operations for a period of time, it can be uneconomical or even counterproductive to begin

reclamation of mines lands. While it would not be practicable to reclaim areas that will be

re-disturbed in the near future, the public health and safety, as well as the environment,

must be addressed until mining activities are resumed. An Interim Management Plan (IMP)

is a temporary plan to address public health, safety, and environmental issues relevant to

the site in question, e.g., drainage, erosion control, temporary fencing, etc.

Reference: SMARA Section 2770(h)

These principals, developed by the State Mining and Geology Board (SMGB) in question-and-answer

format, are intended to clarify provisions of the Surface Mining and Reclamation Act ("SMARA"; Public

Resources Code § 2710 et. seq.) and Public Resources Code §2207 relating to requirements for idle

mines. These principles do not place additional requirements on mining operations, nor do they limit a

lead agency’s ability to regulate idle mines in accordance with state or federal law or local ordinance.

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(4) When is an IMP Required?

Within 90 days of a mining operation becoming "idle," the operator must submit an

IMP to the lead agency for review and approval. If the IMP is not filed within this 90 day

period, the mine will be deemed "abandoned" and the operator will be responsible for the

costs of reclamation. (See Scenario numbers 1 and 2)

Reference: SMARA Sections 2770(h), 2773.1(b)

(5) What are the contents of an IMP?

SMARA requires the IMP to include a description of the measures the operator will

implement to maintain the site in compliance with the Act, including, but not limited to, all

permit conditions. Statute is otherwise silent as to the requirements of an IMP; however,

measures to assure continued public health and safety should be identified. Lead

agencies have the responsibility to determine what these measures should be. Any

requirements deemed necessary to implement the Act’s requirements for idle mines and

IMPs should be included in the lead agency’s SMARA ordinance, keeping in mind sitespecific

differences such as size, location, and type of mine operation.

Reference: SMARA Section 2770(h)(1)

(6) How does an IMP relate to an approved reclamation plan?

An IMP is considered to be an amendment to a lead agency approved reclamation

plan. The operation must have an approved reclamation plan before an IMP can be

submitted to the lead agency for action--an IMP cannot be used in lieu of a reclamation

plan. Because an IMP is intended to be a temporary plan to maintain stable site conditions

until mining activities are resumed, the submittal of an IMP for processing by the lead

agency would NOT be just cause to re-examine an approved reclamation plan and/or

cause the plan to be subsequently amended.

Reference: SMARA Section 2770(h)(1)

(7) Is an IMP subject to environmental review?

Statute specifically exempts IMPs from environmental review under the California

Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).

Reference: SMARA Section 2770(h)(1)

(8) What are the processing requirements for an IMP?

Upon receipt of an IMP, the lead agency has 60 days (or a period mutually agreed

upon by the lead agency and the operator) in which to review and approve the IMP, and

notify the operator, in accordance with the lead agency’s SMARA ordinance. If the IMP

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does not meet the requirements of SMARA, the lead agency must notify the operator in

writing of identified deficiencies, and allow 30 days (or a longer period mutually agreed

upon by the lead agency and the operator) for the operator to submit a revised IMP. The

lead agency has 60 days upon receipt of the revised IMP in which to approve or to deny

approval of the revised IMP.

Reference: SMARA Section 2770(h) (4) through (5)

Because an IMP is considered to be an amendment to an approved reclamation

plan, it is subject to Department of Conservation review. Prior to approval of an IMP, the

lead agency must forward the document to the Department for review. The Department is

granted 30 days in which to prepare written comments on the IMP. Lead agencies must

evaluate the Department’s comments, if any, and if the lead agency’s position differs from

the Department’s, the lead agency must respond, in writing, and address in detail why

specific comments and suggestions were not accepted.

Reference: SMARA Section 2770(h)(1), 2774(c)

(9) What appeals, if any, are available to an operator should the IMP be denied

lead agency approval?

If the lead agency denies approval of the revised IMP, SMARA guarantees the

operator an appeal of that decision to the lead agency’s governing body. The lead

agency’s governing body must schedule a public hearing on the appeal within 45 days of

the filing of the appeal (or any longer period mutually agreed upon by the lead agency and

the operator). Operators may not appeal unapproved IMPs to the State Mining and

Geology Board or to the Department of Conservation.

Reference: SMARA Section 2770(h)(2)

(10) How long may an IMP remain in effect?

An approved IMP may remain in effect for a period not to exceed five years. Once

the five-year period has ended, the lead agency may: (1) renew the IMP for up to a fiveyear

period if the mine operator has complied fully with the IMP; or (2) require the mine

operator to commence reclamation in accordance with the approved reclamation plan.

If the lead agency does not renew the IMP, then the mine operator must commence

reclamation in accordance with the approved reclamation plan, or resume mining activities.

SMARA states that unless review of an IMP is pending before the lead agency, or an

appeal is pending before the lead agency’s governing body, a mine that has been idle for

over one year and has not obtained an approved IMP, shall be considered abandoned and

the operator shall commence and complete reclamation in accordance with the approved

reclamation plan.

Reference: SMARA Section 2770(h)(2) and (6)

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(11) What are the annual requirements of an "idle" mine?

Idle mining operations must maintain lead agency approved financial assurances

for reclamation. The amount of the financial assurances must be calculated, reviewed, and

approved in the same manner as financial assurances for active mining operations.

Reference: SMARA Sections 2770(h)(3) and 2773.1

All surface mining operators, including those with "idle" mine status, are required to

file an annual report with the Department of Conservation using forms furnished by the

State Mining and Geology Board, together with the appropriate reporting fee. (See

Scenario number 3.)

Reference: PRC Section 2207

Idle mining operations are subject to annual inspections to ensure the operator is

complying with the permitting and IMP requirements.

Reference: SMARA Section 2774(b)

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A mining operator extracts aggregate from a dry river bed having winter flow in the

past year. The next six months are unusually wet, and after the rainy season, water remains

standing in some locations and is just below the surface in others. The mine operator’s

Department of Fish and Game 1603 Agreement prohibits the operator from mining under

"wet" conditions. Therefore, no mining occurs for the entire 12 month period. The next

winter also results in above normal rainfall and the same conditions exist; thus, no mining

occurs for another 12 month period. Does the mine operator need an Interim Management

Plan (IMP)?


Under the above conditions, the mine operator would file an IMP 90 days after the

first 12 month period ends if he/she intends to resume mining activities once conditions

allow. The operator can specify how long, up to five years, the IMP will remain in effect.

The operator may commence mining operations while an approved IMP is in effect.


In 1990, a mine operation produced 100,000 short tons of mined material--the

largest amount of material produced by this operation to date. During calendar years 1991

through October 1993, the mine produced between 70,000 and 90,000 short tons. From

November 1993 until September 1994, the operation produced no material. In October

through November 1994, the operation produced 10,000 short tons of mined materials.

The operation produced no mined materials in December 1994. The operator intends to

actively mine the site beginning in January 1997. How would this operator file annual

reports for the 1993 and 1994 reporting year? When would the operator be required to file

an IMP?


This operator would file as an active mine operation for the 1993 reporting

(calendar) year since he/she produced more than 10% of the previous annual maximum.

For the 1994 reporting year, the operator would file as idle.

Since the operator intends to resume active mining, and from November 1993 to

November 1994 the mine produced less than 10% of the previous annual maximum

(10,000 short tons), the operator should have an approved IMP by February 1995 (90 days

after the mine operation became idle). A copy of the IMP would be filed with the 1994

annual report due on July 1, 1995.


A mining operator spends one calendar year mining and compiling a large

stockpile. Calendar years two through five, the operator does not extract new material, but

sells materials from the stockpile. Year six, the mining operator begins the cycle over by

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mining new material during one calendar year to rebuild the stockpile. What are the annual

reporting requirements for calendar years one through six?


If the stockpile is located on the SAME site minerals are extracted, the mining

operator would report as an "active mine" for each calendar year. California Code of

Regulations Section 3501 defines the segregation and stockpiling of mined materials, and

the recovery of same, as a surface mining operation. Therefore, if a mine operator

continues to remove mined materials for a stockpile on a year-round basis, the mine is

considered active for annual reporting purposes.


The mine operator would file as "idle" for years two through six, and must obtain an

approved IMP in year two, if the stockpile is on a plant site NOT located on the same site

from which minerals are extracted. The mining operator may be exempt from filing an

annual report for the stockpile site only. SMARA Section 2714(c) states the operation of a

plant site used for on-site stockpiling and on-site recovery of mined materials may be

considered exempt from SMARA and annual reporting requirements if the following

conditions are met:

(1) the plant is located on lands designated for industrial or commercial uses in the

applicable county or city general plan;

(2) the plant is located on lands zoned industrial or commercial, or are contained

within a zoning category intended exclusively for industrial activities by the applicable city of


(3) none of the minerals being processed are be extracted on-site;

(4) all reclamation work has been completed pursuant to the approved reclamation

plan for any mineral extraction activities that occurred on-site after

January 1, 1976.

In this instance, it is recommended that the mine operator contact the lead agency

to determine whether the site qualifies for this exemption. If so, the mine operator would

not file an annual report. If the site does not qualify for this exemption, the mine operator

would file his/her annual report as directed in Answer A.

(Note: Regardless of whether a report is filed annually for the stockpile, the mining

operator is still required to file an annual report for the site where the mined materials are

being extracted.)