Montana Code Annotated 2023



Part 3. Metal Mine Reclamation


82-4-303. Definitions. As used in this part, unless the context indicates otherwise, the following definitions apply:

(1) "Abandonment of surface or underground mining" may be presumed when it is shown that continued operation will not resume.

(2) "Amendment" means a change to an approved operating or reclamation plan. A major amendment is an amendment that may significantly affect the human environment. A minor amendment is an amendment that will not significantly affect the human environment.

(3) "Board" means the board of environmental review provided for in 2-15-3502.

(4) "Certification" means, with regard to tailings storage facilities, a statement of opinion by a professional engineer that the work on a tailings storage facility has been conducted in accordance with the normal standard of care within dam engineering practice. Certification does not constitute a warranty or guarantee of facts or conditions certified.

(5) "Completeness" means that an application contains information addressing each applicable permit requirement as listed in this part or rules adopted pursuant to this part in sufficient detail for the department to make a decision as to adequacy of the application to meet the requirements of this part.

(6) "Constructor" means the company or companies constructing the built components of a tailings storage facility, including but not limited to embankment dams, surface water diversion structures, tailings distribution systems, reclaim water systems, and monitoring instrumentation.

(7) "Cyanide ore-processing reagent" means cyanide or a cyanide compound used as a reagent in leaching operations.

(8) "Department" means the department of environmental quality provided for in 2-15-3501.

(9) "Disturbed land" means the area of land or surface water that has been disturbed, beginning at the date of the issuance of the permit. The term includes the area from which the overburden, tailings, waste materials, or minerals have been removed and tailings ponds, waste dumps, roads, conveyor systems, load-out facilities, leach dumps, and all similar excavations or coverings that result from the operation and that have not been previously reclaimed under the reclamation plan.

(10) "Engineer of record" means a qualified engineer who is the lead designer for a tailings storage facility.

(11) "Expansion" means, with regard to tailings storage facilities, a change in the size, height, or configuration of or a contiguous addition to an existing tailings storage facility that increases or may increase the storage capacity of the impoundment above the currently permitted capacity.

(12) "Exploration" means:

(a) all activities that are conducted on or beneath the surface of lands and that result in material disturbance of the surface for the purpose of determining the presence, location, extent, depth, grade, and economic viability of mineralization in those lands, if any, other than mining for production and economic exploitation; and

(b) all roads made for the purpose of facilitating exploration, except as noted in 82-4-310.

(13) "Independent review engineer" means a licensed engineer who is a recognized expert in tailings storage facility design, construction, operation, and closure.

(14) "Material deviation" means a failure to follow a condition in a design document, corrective action plan, schedule, or tailings operation, maintenance, and surveillance manual that could reasonably be expected to substantively impair a tailings storage facility from performing as intended.

(15) "Maximum credible earthquake" means the most severe earthquake that can be expected at a site based on geologic and seismological evidence, including a review of all historic earthquake data of events sufficiently nearby to influence the site, all faults in the area, and attenuations from causative faults to the site.

(16) "Mineral" means any ore, rock, or substance, other than oil, gas, bentonite, clay, coal, sand, gravel, peat, soil materials, or uranium, that is taken from below the surface or from the surface of the earth for the purpose of milling, concentration, refinement, smelting, manufacturing, or other subsequent use or processing or for stockpiling for future use, refinement, or smelting.

(17) "Mining" commences when the operator first mines ores or minerals in commercial quantities for sale, beneficiation, refining, or other processing or disposition or first takes bulk samples for metallurgical testing in excess of the aggregate of 10,000 short tons.

(18) "Observational method" means a continuous, managed, and integrated process of design, construction control, monitoring, and review enabling appropriate, previously defined modifications to be incorporated during and after construction.

(19) "Operator" means a person who has an operating permit issued under 82-4-335.

(20) "Ore processing" means milling, heap leaching, flotation, vat leaching, or other standard hard-rock mineral concentration processes.

(21) "Panel" means the tailings storage facility independent review panel created for each new or expanded tailings storage facility.

(22) "Person" means any person, corporation, firm, association, partnership, or other legal entity engaged in exploration for or mining of minerals on or below the surface of the earth, reprocessing of tailings or waste materials, or operation of a hard-rock mill.

(23) "Placer deposit" means:

(a) naturally occurring, scattered, or unconsolidated valuable minerals in gravel, glacial, eolian, colluvial, or alluvial deposits lying above bedrock; or

(b) all forms of deposit except veins of quartz and other rock in place.

(24) "Placer or dredge mining" means the mining of minerals from a placer deposit by a person or persons.

(25) "Practicable" means available and capable of being implemented after taking into consideration cost, existing technology, and logistics in light of overall project purposes.

(26) "Professional engineer" means a registered professional engineer licensed to practice in Montana under Title 37, chapter 67, part 3.

(27) "Qualified engineer" means a professional engineer who has a minimum of 10 years of direct experience with the design and construction of tailings storage facilities and has the appropriate professional and educational credentials to effectively determine appropriate parameters for the safe design, construction, operation, and closure of a tailings storage facility.

(28) "Reclamation plan" means the operator's written proposal, as required and approved by the department, for reclamation of the land that will be disturbed. The proposal must include, to the extent practical at the time of application for an operating permit:

(a) a statement of the proposed subsequent use of the land after reclamation, which may include use of the land as an industrial site not necessarily related to mining;

(b) plans for surface gradient restoration to a surface suitable for the proposed subsequent use of the land after reclamation is completed and the proposed method of accomplishment;

(c) the manner and type of revegetation or other surface treatment of disturbed areas;

(d) procedures proposed to avoid foreseeable situations of public nuisance, endangerment of public safety, damage to human life or property, or unnecessary damage to flora and fauna in or adjacent to the area;

(e) the method of disposal of mining debris;

(f) the method of diverting surface waters around the disturbed areas when necessary to prevent pollution of those waters or unnecessary erosion;

(g) the method of reclamation of stream channels and stream banks to control erosion, siltation, and pollution;

(h) maps and other supporting documents that may be reasonably required by the department; and

(i) a time schedule for reclamation that meets the requirements of 82-4-336.

(29) (a) "Rock products" means decorative rock, building stone, riprap, mineral aggregates, and other minerals produced by typical quarrying activities or collected from or just below the ground surface that do not contain sulfides with the potential to produce acid, toxic, or otherwise pollutive solutions.

(b) The term does not include talc, gypsum, limestone, metalliferous ores, gemstones, or materials extracted by underground mining.

(30) (a) "Small miner" means a person, firm, or corporation that engages in mining activity that is not exempt from this part pursuant to 82-4-310, that engages in the business of reprocessing of tailings or waste materials, that, except as provided in 82-4-310, knowingly allows other persons to engage in mining activities on land owned or controlled by the person, firm, or corporation, that does not hold an operating permit under 82-4-343 or 82-4-335 except for a permit issued under 82-4-335(2) or an operating permit that meets the criteria of subsection (30)(c) of this section, and that conducts:

(i) an operation that results in not more than 5 acres of the earth's surface being disturbed and unreclaimed; or

(ii) two operations that disturb and leave unreclaimed less than 5 acres for each operation if the respective mining properties are:

(A) the only operations engaged in by the person, firm, or corporation; and

(B) at least 1 mile apart at their closest point.

(b) For the purpose of this definition only, the department shall, in computing the area covered by the operation:

(i) exclude access or haulage roads that are required by a local, state, or federal agency having jurisdiction over that road to be constructed to certain specifications if that public agency notifies the department in writing that it desires to have the road remain in use and will maintain it after mining ceases; and

(ii) exclude access roads for which the person, firm, or corporation submits a bond to the department in the amount of the estimated total cost of reclamation along with a description of the location of the road and the specifications to which it will be constructed.

(c) A small miner may hold an operating permit that allows disturbance of 100 acres or less. The permit may be amended to add new disturbance areas, but the total area permitted for disturbance may not exceed 100 acres at any time.

(31) "Soil materials" means earth material found in the upper soil layers that will support plant growth.

(32) (a) "Surface mining" means all or any part of the process involved in mining of minerals by removing the overburden and mining directly from the mineral deposits exposed, including but not limited to open-pit mining of minerals naturally exposed at the surface of the earth, mining by the auger method, and all similar methods by which earth or minerals exposed at the surface are removed in the course of mining.

(b) Surface mining does not include the extraction of oil, gas, bentonite, clay, coal, sand, gravel, peat, soil materials, or uranium or excavation or grading conducted for onsite farming, onsite road construction, or other onsite building construction.

(33) "Tailings" means the residual materials remaining after a milling process that separates the valuable fraction from the uneconomic fraction of an ore mined by an operator.

(34) (a) "Tailings storage facility" means a facility that temporarily or permanently stores tailings, including the impoundment, embankment, tailings distribution works, reclaim water works, monitoring devices, storm water diversions, and other ancillary structures.

(b) The term does not include a facility that:

(i) stores 50 acre-feet or less of free water or process solution;

(ii) is wholly contained below surrounding grade with no man-made structures retaining tailings, water, or process solution or underground mines that use tailings as backfill; or

(iii) stores dry stack or filtered tailings.

(35) "Underground mining" means all methods of mining other than surface mining.

(36) "Unit of surface-mined area" means that area of land and surface water included within an operating permit actually disturbed by surface mining during each 12-month period of time, beginning at the date of the issuance of the permit. The term includes the area from which overburden or minerals have been removed, the area covered by mining debris, and all additional areas used in surface mining or underground mining operations that by virtue of mining use are susceptible to erosion in excess of the surrounding undisturbed portions of land.

(37) "Vegetative cover" means the type of vegetation, grass, shrubs, trees, or any other form of natural cover considered suitable at time of reclamation.

History: En. Sec. 3, Ch. 252, L. 1971; amd. Sec. 1, Ch. 281, L. 1974; amd. Sec. 13, Ch. 39, L. 1977; amd. Sec. 1, Ch. 423, L. 1977; R.C.M. 1947, 50-1203; amd. Sec. 1, Ch. 588, L. 1979; amd. Sec. 1, Ch. 386, L. 1985; amd. Sec. 1, Ch. 453, L. 1985; amd. Sec. 1, Ch. 93, L. 1989; amd. Sec. 1, Ch. 346, L. 1989; amd. Sec. 1, Ch. 347, L. 1989; amd. Sec. 1, Ch. 283, L. 1991; amd. Sec. 1, Ch. 637, L. 1991; amd. Sec. 4, Ch. 472, L. 1993; amd. Sec. 380, Ch. 418, L. 1995; amd. Sec. 1, Ch. 272, L. 1997; amd. Sec. 1, Ch. 507, L. 1999; amd. Sec. 1, Ch. 488, L. 2001; amd. Sec. 1, Ch. 365, L. 2003; amd. Sec. 1, Ch. 63, L. 2005; amd. Sec. 1, Ch. 410, L. 2011; amd. Sec. 2, Ch. 399, L. 2015; amd. Sec. 2, Ch. 152, L. 2021.