Locatable Minerals Surface Management Standards for Prospecting Exploration, Mining, and Reclamation
Introduction - The following operational guidelines for mining activities have been compiled to facilitate compliance with the 43 CFR 3809 surface management regulations, which apply to all mining operations on BLM administered lands in the Eugene District. All of the following standards may not apply to every mining operation. The BLM will provide site specific standards for some mining proposals. It is the mining claimant's and/or operator's responsibility to avoid "unnecessary or undue degradation," and to promptly perform all necessary reclamation work. Refer to the regulations at 43 CFR 3809 for general requirements. BLM's Solid Mineral Reclamation Handbook (H-3042-1) provides guidance for the reclamation of mining and exploration sites that will be followed on the Eugene District.
There is an intergovernmental agreement between BLM and the Oregon Department of Geology and Mineral Industries designed to avoid duplication of regulations, inspections, and approval of reclamation plans as well as minimize repetitive costs to mining operators. The following guidelines include some but not all of the requirements of the various State agencies overseeing mining operations. BLM does not enforce State requirements, and they are included here as information. State requirements could change during the plan period.
Operations ordinarily resulting in only negligible disturbance as defined in 43 CFR 3809.0-5(b) are considered to be "casual use" and no notification to or approval by the BLM is required. Casual use activities include staking mining claims, prospecting or sampling or mining with hand tools, gold panning, and use of suction dredges with a suction hose equal to or less than 4 inches in diameter where no structures or occupancy beyond 14 calendar days per year is involved.
At the existing Sharps Creek Recreation Site, which is withdrawn from mining claim location, the use of hand tools (including shovels, gold pans, and sluice boxes), and suction dredges with a suction hose equal to or less than 4 inches in diameter, is allowed with the required permits in compliance with Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) requirements. Suction dredges with suction hoses having an inside diameter greater than 4 inches are not allowed at this recreation site. Additional information on recreational mining at this site is available from the reception desk at the BLM District Office.
All operators proposing occupancy for more than 14 calendar days per year, timber removal, road or trail construction, installation of structures of any kind, suction dredges with suction hoses having an inside diameter of greater than 4 inches, multiple suction dredges regardless of size, or the use of other mechanized earth moving equipment that would cause a surface disturbance of 5 acres or less during any calendar year, must provide written notice to the District Office at least 15 days prior to the commencement of any surface mining disturbance. For operations that will cause greater than 5 acres of cumulative surface disturbance, the operator is required to submit a Plan of Operations pursuant to the regulations in 43 CFR 3809.1-4. A Plan of Operations will be required to use motorized vehicles in areas designated as closed to Off-Highway Vehicles (OHV). Notices properly filed under the regulations in 43 CFR Subpart 3809 constitute authorization to operate vehicles in areas not designated as closed to OHV use. Generally, the need for a Notice or Plan of Operations is determined on a case by case basis.
State of Oregon Requirements
Out-of-stream mining, which disposes of all waste water by evaporation and/or seepage with no readily-traceable discharge to ground water or surface water, and involves processing of up to 10,000 cubic yards of material per year, must be authorized under General Permit #0600 issued by the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ).
In-stream use of suction dredges must be authorized by Permit #0700-J issued by the DEQ. This permit is issued free of charge for dredges having hoses with an inside diameter of 4 inches or less. Registration and a filing fee of $50.00 is required for suction dredges having hoses with an inside diameter greater than 4 inches. Suction dredge operators should contact the Department of Environmental Quality, 750 Front St. N.E., Suite 120, Salem, Oregon 97310, phone: 378-8240 ext. 238, for further information.
Suction dredging outside the "permitted work period" established for certain waterways by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) will require written permission by an appropriate ODFW District Biologist.
The river beds of navigable waterways are controlled by the Oregon Division of State Lands. Removal or alteration of over 50 cubic yards of material in any waters of the State requires a Removal-Fill permit from the Division of State Lands. This permit is required for any relocation of flowing streams in conjunction with mining.
Any person engaging in onshore mineral exploration, which disturbs more than one surface acre or involves drilling to greater than 50 feet, must obtain an exploration permit from the Oregon Department of Geology and Mineral Industries (DOGAMI). Mining operations involving 5,000 or more cubic yards of material per year or disturbance of one or more acres of land will require an operating permit from DOGAMI.
Timber Removal - The operator may cut and use timber that is in the way of mining activities. An application must be submitted to the Authorized Officer pursuant to 43 CFR 3821.4 describing the proposed use of merchantable timber from O&C lands for mining purposes. No merchantable trees may be cut until the application is approved and the trees are marked.
The Eugene BLM office recommends that small trees less than 7 inches in diameter at breast height (dbh) and shrubs be lopped and scattered, or shredded for use as mulch. Trees greater than or equal to 7 inches (dbh) are to be bucked and stacked in an accessible location unless they are needed for the mining operation.
Firewood - Merchantable conifer timber may not be used for firewood. Firewood permits may be issued to the operator for use in conjunction with the mining operation, but no wood may be used until a permit is obtained from BLM. Permits will be limited to hardwoods or salvage timber that is not considered merchantable. Firewood authorized for use in conjunction with a mining operation is not to be removed from the mining claim.
Topsoil - Topsoil and usable subsoil (usually the top 12 to 18 inches) should be carefully removed from all areas in advance of excavation or establishment of mine waste dumps and tailings dams. This material should be stockpiled and protected from erosion for use in future reclamation.
Roads - Existing roads and trails should be used as much as possible. Temporary roads are to be constructed to a minimum width and with minimum cuts and fills. All roads shall be constructed so as not to negatively impact slope stability. Roads will be promptly reclaimed when no longer needed.
Wetlands - When proposed mining activities will fill or alter wetland areas, the operator must contact the Department of the Army, Corps of Engineers, for the appropriate permit. A copy of the permit must be submitted to the Authorized Officer in conjunction with a Notice or Plan of Operations.
Water Quality - All operators shall comply with Federal and State water quality standards including the Federal Water Pollution Control Act. When mining will be in or near bodies of water, or sediment will be discharged, the State Department of Environmental Quality should be consulted. A discharge permit is required when mining operations discharge turbid water. In some cases, a settling pond may be necessary. It is the operator's responsibility to obtain any needed suction dredging, stream bed alteration, or water discharge permits required by the State DEQ or other State agencies. Copies of such permits shall be provided to the BLM Authorized Officer when a Notice or Plan of Operations is filed. All operations, including casual use, shall be conducted in a manner so as to prevent unnecessary or undue degradation of surface and subsurface water resources and shall comply with all pertinent Federal and State water quality laws.
Claim Monuments - State law prohibited the use of plastic pipe for lode claim staking in Oregon after House Bill 2077 was implemented on March 28, 1991. BLM policy requires that existing plastic pipe monuments should have all openings (ends and slots) permanently closed. Upon loss or abandonment of the claim, all plastic pipe must be removed from the public lands by the parties who placed it there. When old markers are replaced during normal claim maintenance, they are to be either wood posts or stone and/or earth mounds, constructed in accordance with State law.
Drill Sites - Whenever possible, exploratory drill sites should be located next to or on existing roads without blocking public access. When drill sites must be constructed, the size of the disturbance shall be as small as possible. Any operator engaging in mineral exploration that involves drilling to greater than 50 feet must obtain an exploration permit from the Oregon Department of Geology and Mineral Industries (ORS 517.962).
Dust and Erosion Control - While in operation, and during periods of shut-down, exposed ground surfaces susceptible to erosion will need to be protected. This can be accomplished with seeding, mulching, installation of water diversions, and routine watering of dust producing surfaces.
Fire Safety - All State fire regulations must be followed, including obtaining a campfire permit or blasting permit, if needed. All internal gas combustion engines must be equipped with approved spark arresters and exhaust systems.
Safety and Public Access - Under Public Law 167, the Government has the right to dispose and manage surface resources (including timber) on mining claims located after July 23, 1955. These rights are limited to the extent that they do not endanger or materially interfere with any phase of an ongoing mining operation or uses reasonably incident thereto. Claims located prior to July 23, 1955 may have surface rights, if such claims were verified as being valid under Sections 5 and 6 of the Act.
Mining claimants shall not exclude the public from mining claims with force, intimidation, or no trespassing signs. It is the operator's responsibility to protect the public from mining hazards. The public can be restricted only from specific dangerous areas (e.g., underground mines, open pits, or equipment storage sites) by erecting fences, gates, and warning signs. Gates or road blocks may be installed on existing or proposed roads only with BLM approval. Gates restricting public access onto a mine site will only be considered in cases where there is a large area safety hazard created by the mining activity. The determination as to whether a safety hazard is large enough to warrant a gate will be determined on a case by case basis. Fences (rather than gates) or other approved barriers shall be utilized to protect the public from hazards related to small excavations, tunnels, and shafts.
Some roads that cross private land to reach BLM administered lands are controlled by private parties. Some of these roads have been assigned BLM road numbers, which can give the impression that they are BLM roads. These roads may grant administrative use to the BLM and its licensees and permittees under a nonexclusive easement. Mining claimants are not considered licensees or permittees and, therefore, they must make their own arrangements with the private party in order to use such a road. No automatic right is granted under any of the mining laws to use a road involved in a nonexclusive easement.
Sewage - Self-contained or chemical toilets are to be used at exploration or mining operations and their contents disposed of at approved dump stations. Outhouses and uncontained pit toilets are considered unnecessary and undue degradation and are not allowed. County sanitation permits are required for all other types of proposed sanitation facilities.
Structures - It is District policy that permanent structures will not be allowed for exploration or prospecting operations. Permanent structures are those fixed to the ground by any of the various types of foundations, slabs, piers, poles, or other means allowed by State or County building codes. The term shall also include structures placed on the ground that lack foundations, slabs, piers or poles, and that can only be moved through disassembly into component parts or by techniques commonly used in house moving. Permanent structures include trailers, mobile homes, motor homes, campers, house-cars, and the like when fixed to the ground by any method
Any temporary structures placed on public lands in conjunction with prospecting or exploration are allowed only for the duration of such activities, unless expressly allowed in writing by the Authorized Officer to remain on the public lands. Temporary structures are defined as structures not fixed to the ground by a foundation or piers (cinder blocks or posts) and that can be moved without disassembly into its component parts. Vans, pickup campers, motor homes, and trailers that have not been piered are considered to be temporary structures.
Permanent structures (as described above) may be allowed for mining operations if they are deemed reasonably incident to conducting the operation. Mining operations are defined as all functions, work, facilities, and activities in connection with development, mining, or processing mineral deposits.
All permanent or temporary structures placed on public lands shall conform with the appropriate State or local building, fire, and electrical codes, and occupational safety and health and mine safety standards. This requirement for existing or future structures on BLM lands in Oregon was published in the Federal Register on July 1, 1992. BLM may require operators to remove such structures if a period of nonoperation exceeds 24 consecutive months, and reclamation of the building site(s) must be conducted at that time.
Equipment - Only equipment and supplies that are appropriate, reasonable, and in regular use for exploration and mining operations will be allowed on the mining claim. Equipment used only infrequently (including parts and scrap metal) should be stored off site. That which can be readily removed in a small truck and/or trailer at the end of the work day should not be left on site. Storage of unused or infrequently used equipment will not serve to justify occupancy of a mining claim. Accumulation of unused and/or derelict equipment and other unused materials, including trash, may be in violation of Federal and State ordinances regarding offensive littering, and will be considered undue and unnecessary degradation of the public lands. BLM may require the operator to remove equipment after an extended period (defined as 24 consecutive months) of nonoperation and to reclaim the site. In such cases, the claimant will be required to take immediate mitigative action.
Animals - If dogs or cats are to be present at the work site, the operator is required to keep them under control at all times so that they do not chase wildlife, or threaten other people, including government employees conducting site inspections on the public lands. Unless otherwise permitted, animals such as cows, chickens, goats, pigs or horses are not considered necessary to conduct mining operations and are not allowed on mining claims.
Tailings Ponds - Settling ponds must be used to contain sediment, and any discharge must meet the standards of the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality.
Solid and Hazardous Waste - Trash, garbage, used oil, etc. must be removed from public land and disposed of properly. Trash, garbage, or hazardous wastes must not be buried on public lands. Accumulations of trash, debris, or inoperable equipment on public lands is viewed as unnecessary degradation and will not be tolerated. Operators conducting illegal disposals shall be held financially responsible for the clean-up of such disposals.
Cultural and Paleontological Resources - Operators shall not knowingly alter, injure, or destroy any scientifically important paleontological (fossil) remains or any historical or archaeological site, structure, or object on Federal lands. The operator shall immediately bring to the attention of the BLM, any paleontological (fossil) remains or any historical or archaeological site, structure, or object that might be altered or destroyed by exploration or mining operations, and shall leave such discovery intact until told to proceed by the Authorized Officer. The Authorized Officer shall evaluate the discovery, take action to protect or remove the resource, and allow operations to proceed within 10 working days.
Threatened and Endangered Species of Plants and Animals - Operators shall take such action as may be needed to prevent adverse impacts to Threatened or Endangered species of plants and animals and their habitat that may be affected by operations, as stipulated in guidelines developed through consultation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service or the National Marine Fisheries Service. Under Notice-level operations, if the review of the notice by BLM reveals that a potential conflict with a Threatened or Endangered species exists, the operator will be advised not to proceed and informed that a knowing violation of the taking provision of the Endangered Species Act (for wildlife or fish) will result in a notice of noncompliance and may result in criminal penalties. Although the takings provision of the Act does not extend to plants, willful acts of vandalism to endangered plants is illegal. If the operator wishes to develop measures that will eliminate the conflict, then the Authorized Officer will arrange for the participation of BLM resource specialists and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service or the National Marine Fisheries Service in reviewing the proposed revision to the Notice.
If processing a proposed Plan of Operations indicates that a potential conflict exists with a Threatened or Endangered species or its habitat, the Authorized Officer shall notify the operator that the plan cannot be approved until BLM has complied with Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act. Special status species (Federal Candidate/Bureau Sensitive) plants and animals, and their habitat will be identified by the Authorized Officer, and shall be avoided wherever possible.
Occupancy at Mining Sites
Living on public land in excess of 14 days per calendar year must be reasonably incident to and required for actual continuous mining or diligent exploration operations and will require either a Notice or Plan of Operations. In general, operations at the casual use level are not sufficient to warrant occupancy on a mining claim. The following discussion of occupancy only applies to those operators wishing to assert their right to live full-time on public lands pursuant to privileges granted under the mining laws. It does not apply to operators proposing to camp at prospecting or mining sites on weekends or 1 to 2 days during the week.
Security Guard - In some cases it may be reasonably incident for a security guard to live on-site in order to protect valuable property, equipment, and/or safeguard the public from workings that are necessary for the mining operation. The need for a security guard shall be such that the person with those duties is required to be present at the site whenever the operation is shut down temporarily or at the end of the workday, or whenever the mining claimant, operator, or workers are not present on the site. The proposed occupancy by a security guard must be described in the Notice or Plan of Operations. If a guard animal is kept at the site, it must be kept under control at all times, or could be considered a public safety hazard.
Reclamation of all disturbed areas must be performed concurrently or as soon as possible after exploration or mining permanently ceases and shall conform to guidelines described in BLM Handbook H-3042-1. Reclamation shall include, but shall not be limited to (a) saving topsoil for final application after reshaping disturbed areas; (b) measures to control erosion, landslides, and water runoff; (c) measures to isolate, remove, or control toxic materials; (d) reshaping the area disturbed, applying topsoil, and revegetating disturbed areas where reasonably practicable; and (e) rehabilitation of fisheries and wildlife habitat. When reclamation of the disturbed area has been completed, except to the extent necessary to preserve evidence of mineralization, the BLM must be notified so that an inspection of the area can be made.
Equipment and Debris - All mining equipment, vehicles, and structures must be removed from the public lands during periods of nonoperation in excess of 24 consecutive months and/or at the conclusion of mining, unless authorization from BLM is given to the operator or claimant in writing. Accumulations of debris and trash on mining claims is considered unnecessary and undue degradation and must be removed immediately regardless of the status of the operation. Failure to do so will result in the issuance of a notice of noncompliance.
Backfilling and Recontouring - The first steps in reclaiming a disturbed site are backfilling excavations and reducing high walls, if feasible. Coarse rock material should be replaced first, followed by medium sized material, with fine materials to be placed on top. Recontouring means shaping the disturbed area so that it will blend in with the surrounding lands, minimize the possibility of erosion, and facilitate revegetation.
Seedbed Preparation - Recontouring should include preparation of an adequate seedbed. This is accomplished by ripping or disking compacted soils to a depth of at least 6 inches in rocky areas and at least 18 inches in less rocky areas. This should be done following the contour of the land to limit erosion. All stockpiled settling pond fines, and then topsoil, shall be spread evenly over the disturbed areas.
Fertilizer - Due to the generally poor nutrient value of mined soils, it may be necessary to use fertilizer to ensure maximum yield from the seeding mixture. For example, a fertilizer with analysis of 16-16-16, or other approved mix should be spread at the rate of 200 lbs/acre, but not allowed to enter streams or bodies of water.
Seeding - BLM approved seeding prescription must be used to provide adequate revegetation for erosion control, restoration of wildlife habitat, and achieve productive secondary uses of public lands. Seeding should be done in September or October in the Eugene District to ensure that seed is in the ground prior to the first significant winter rains. If seeding fails, or is done at the wrong time, the operator may be asked to reseed the area at the appropriate time, as determined by the Authorized Officer.
Broadcast seeding is preferable on smaller sites. When using a whirlybird type seed spreader, it is important to keep the different seeds well mixed to achieve even seed distribution. For the best results, a drag harrow should be pulled over the seeded area to cover the seed before mulching. The Authorized Officer may recommend hydroseeding on critical sites for rapid coverage and erosion control on cut banks, fill slopes, and any other disturbed areas.
Tree Replacement - Replacement of destroyed trees may be necessary with the planting of seedlings or container stock.
Mulch - As directed by the BLM, during review of the Notice or Plan of Operations, the disturbed area may require mulching during interim or final reclamation procedures. Depending on site conditions, the mulch may need to be punched, netted, or blown on with a tackifier to hold it in place. In some cases, erosion control blankets may be cost effective for use.
Roads - After mining is completed, all new roads shall be reclaimed, unless otherwise specified by the BLM. High walls and cutbanks are to be knocked down or backfilled to blend with the surrounding landscape. Remove all culverts from drainage crossings and cut back the fill to the original channel. The roadbed should be ripped to a minimum depth of 18 inches to reduce compaction and provide a good seedbed. The road must then be fertilized, seeded, and mulched if necessary. When necessary, water bars are to be used to block access and provide drainage.
Tailings Ponds - The ponds should be allowed to dry out and the sediments removed and spread with the topsoil, unless the sediments contain toxic materials. If the ponds contain toxic materials, a plan will be developed to identify, dispose, and mitigate effects of the toxic materials. If necessary, a monitoring plan will also be implemented. The ponds should then be backfilled and reclaimed.
Visual Resources - To the extent practicable, the reclaimed landscape should have characteristics that approximate or are compatible with the visual quality of the original area.