82-4-226. Prospecting permit. (1) Except as provided in subsection (7), prospecting by any person on land not included in a valid strip-mining or underground-mining permit is unlawful without possessing a valid prospecting permit issued by the department as provided in this section. A prospecting permit may not be issued until the person submits an application, the application is examined, amended if necessary, and approved by the department, and an adequate reclamation performance bond is posted, all of which prerequisites must be done in conformity with the requirements of this part.
(2) An application for a prospecting permit filed pursuant to subsection (1) must be made in writing, notarized, and submitted to the department upon forms prepared and furnished by it. The application must include among other things a prospecting map and a prospecting reclamation plan of substantially the same character as required for a surface-mining or underground-mining map and reclamation plan under this part. The department shall determine by rules the precise nature of the required prospecting map and reclamation plan. Any applicant who intends to prospect by means of core drilling shall specify the location and number of holes to be drilled, methods to be used in sealing aquifers, and other information that may be required by the department. The applicant shall state what types of prospecting and excavating techniques will be employed on the affected land. The application must also include any other or further information that the department may require.
(3) Before the department gives final approval to the prospecting permit application, the applicant shall file with the department a reclamation and revegetation bond in a form and in an amount as determined in the same manner for strip-mining or underground-mining reclamation and revegetation bonds under this part.
(4) In the event that the holder of a prospecting permit desires to strip mine or underground mine the area covered by the prospecting permit and has fulfilled all the requirements for a strip-mining or underground-mining permit, the department may permit the postponement of the reclamation of the acreage prospected if that acreage is incorporated into the complete reclamation plan submitted with the application for a strip-mining or underground-mining permit. Any land actually affected by prospecting or excavating under a prospecting permit and not covered by the strip-mining or underground-mining reclamation plan must be promptly reclaimed.
(5) The prospecting permit is valid for 1 year and is subject to renewal, suspension, and revocation in the same manner as strip-mining or underground-mining permits under this part.
(6) The holder of the prospecting permit shall file with the department the same progress reports, maps, and revegetation progress reports as are required of strip-mining or underground-mining operators under this part.
(7) (a) Prospecting that is not conducted in an area designated unsuitable for coal mining pursuant to 82-4-227 or 82-4-228, that is not conducted for the purpose of determining the location, quality, or quantity of a mineral deposit, and that does not remove more than 250 tons of coal is not subject to subsections (1) through (6). However, a person who conducts prospecting described in this subsection (7)(a) shall file with the department a notice of intent to prospect that contains the information required by the department before commencing prospecting operations. If this prospecting substantially disturbs the natural land surface, it must be conducted in accordance with the performance standards of the board's rules regulating the conduct and reclamation of prospecting operations that remove coal. The department may inspect these prospecting and reclamation operations at any reasonable time.
(b) (i) Prospecting conducted to determine the location, quality, or quantity of coal outside an area designated unsuitable that is not included in a valid strip-mining or underground-mining permit, that does not substantially disturb the land surface, and that does not remove more than 250 tons of coal is not subject to subsections (1) and (2) but may not be conducted without a valid prospecting permit issued pursuant to subsection (8).
(ii) For purposes of this subsection (7)(b), the drilling of coal prospecting holes, the installation and use of associated disposal pits, and the installation of ground water monitoring wells does not constitute substantial disturbance.
(8) (a) An application for a coal prospecting permit required by subsection (7)(b) must contain:
(i) the name, address, and telephone number of the person who seeks to prospect;
(ii) the name, address, and telephone number of the person's representative who will be present at and responsible for conducting the prospecting activities;
(iii) a narrative describing the proposed prospecting area or a map of the prospecting area at a scale of 1:24,000 or greater showing:
(A) the general location of drill holes and trenches;
(B) existing and proposed roads;
(C) occupied dwellings;
(D) topographic features;
(E) bodies of water; and
(iv) a copy of the documents upon which the applicant bases its legal right to prospect, including documentation that the owners of the land affected have been notified and understand that the department will make investigations and inspections to ensure compliance;
(v) a statement of the period of intended prospecting; and
(vi) a description of the method of prospecting to be used and the practices that will be followed to protect the environment and reclaim disturbed areas, including plugging of prospecting holes, in accordance with rules adopted by the board.
(b) Within 10 working days of receipt of an application, the department shall notify the applicant in writing as to whether the application is complete and preliminarily acceptable. If the department determines that the application is not complete or not preliminarily acceptable, the department shall include a detailed identification of information necessary to cure the deficiency.
(c) Within 5 working days of receipt of the applicant's response to the identified deficiencies, the department shall review the response and notify the person as to whether the application is complete and preliminarily acceptable. If the department determines the application is not complete or preliminarily acceptable, the department shall notify the person in writing and include a detailed identification of information necessary to make the application complete and preliminarily acceptable.
(d) When the department determines that the application is complete and preliminarily acceptable, the department shall notify the applicant in writing. The notification must include the amount of bond that is required to be posted in order for the permit to be issued.
(e) Upon receipt of the department's determination of preliminary acceptability, the applicant shall place an advertisement in a newspaper of general circulation in the locality of the proposed prospecting. The notice must describe the application and a place in the locality where the public may examine the application and must notify the public that it may submit written comments by delivering or mailing them to the department within 10 days following publication of the notice.
(f) After close of the public comment period, the department shall notify the applicant as to whether the application is acceptable. The department shall issue the notification within 5 working days of the close of the comment period if no comments are received and within 10 working days if comments are received. In the notice of acceptability, the department shall notify the applicant of any adjustment in the amount of the bond.
(g) A permit issued pursuant to this subsection (8) is subject to subsections (3) through (6).
History: En. Sec. 8, Ch. 325, L. 1973; amd. Sec. 20, Ch. 441, L. 1975; R.C.M. 1947, 50-1041; amd. Sec. 2, Ch. 196, L. 1979; amd. Sec. 2, Ch. 225, L. 1993; amd. Sec. 3, Ch. 159, L. 1995; amd. Sec. 371, Ch. 418, L. 1995; amd. Sec. 3, Ch. 196, L. 1997; amd. Sec. 4, Ch. 127, L. 2005; amd. Sec. 1, Ch. 407, L. 2011; amd. Sec. 2, Ch. 98, L. 2013.