The Mining Act of 1971.
§ 74-46. Title.
This Article may be known and cited as "The Mining Act of 1971." (1971, c. 545, s. 1.)
§ 74-47. Findings.
The General Assembly finds that the extraction of minerals by mining is a basic and essential activity making an important contribution to the economic well-being of North Carolina and the nation. Furthermore, it is not practical to extract minerals required by our society without disturbing the surface of the earth and producing waste materials, and the very character of certain surface mining operations precludes complete restoration of the land to its original condition. However, it is possible to conduct mining in such a way as to minimize its effects on the surrounding environment. Furthermore, proper reclamation of mined land is necessary to prevent undesirable land and water conditions that would be detrimental to the general welfare, health, safety, beauty, and property rights of the citizens of the State. The General Assembly finds that the conduct of mining and reclamation of mined lands as provided by this Article will allow the mining of valuable minerals and will provide for the protection of the State's environment and for the subsequent beneficial use of the mined and reclaimed land. (1971, c. 545, s. 2.)
§ 74-48. Purposes.
The purposes of this Article are to provide:
(1) That the usefulness, productivity, and scenic values of all lands and waters involved in mining within the State will receive the greatest practical degree of protection and restoration.
(2) That from June 11, 1971, no mining shall be carried on in the State unless plans for such mining include reasonable provisions for protection of the surrounding environment and for reclamation of the area of land affected by mining. (1971, c. 545, s. 3.)
§ 74-49. Definitions.
Wherever used or referred to in this Article, unless a different meaning clearly appears from the context:
(1) "Affected land" means the surface area of land that is mined, the surface area of land associated with a mining activity so that soil is exposed to accelerated erosion, the surface area of land on which overburden and waste is deposited, and the surface area of land used for processing or treatment plant, stockpiles, nonpublic roads, and settling ponds.
(1a) "Affiliate" has the same meaning as in 17 Code of Federal Regulations § 240.12(b)-2 (1 April 1992 Edition), which defines "affiliate" as a person that directly, or indirectly through one or more intermediaries, controls, is controlled by, or is under common control of another person.
(2) "Borrow pit" means an area from which soil or other unconsolidated materials are removed to be used, without further processing, for highway construction and maintenance.
(3) "Commission" means the North Carolina Mining Commission created by G.S. 143B-290.
(4) "Department" means the Department of Environmental Quality. Whenever in this Article the Department is assigned duties, they may be performed by the Secretary or an employee of the Department designated by the Secretary.
(5) "Land" shall include submerged lands underlying any river, stream, lake, sound, or other body of water and shall specifically include, among others, estuarine and tidal lands.
(6) "Minerals" means soil, clay, coal, stone, gravel, sand, phosphate, rock, metallic ore, and any other solid material or substance of commercial value found in natural deposits on or in the earth.
(7) "Mining" means any of the following: (i) the breaking of the surface soil in order to facilitate or accomplish the extraction or removal of minerals, ores, or other solid matter; (ii) any activity or process constituting all or part of a process for the extraction or removal of minerals, ores, soils, and other solid matter from their original location; or (iii) the preparation, washing, cleaning, or other treatment of minerals, ores, or other solid matter so as to make them suitable for commercial, industrial, or construction use.
Mining" does not include:
a. Those aspects of deep mining not having significant effect on the surface, where the affected land does not exceed one acre in area.
b. Mining operations where the affected land does not exceed one acre in area.
c. Plants engaged in processing minerals produced elsewhere and whose refuse does not affect more than one acre of land.
d. Excavation or grading when conducted solely for on-site construction for purposes other than mining.
e. Removal of overburden and mining of limited amounts of any ores or mineral solids when done only for the purpose and to the extent necessary to determine the location, quantity, or quality of any natural deposit, provided that no ores or mineral solids removed during exploratory excavation or mining are sold, processed for sale, or consumed in the regular operation of a business, and provided further that the affected land resulting from any exploratory excavation does not exceed one acre in area.
f. Excavation or grading where all of the following apply:
1. The excavation or grading is conducted to provide soil or other unconsolidated material to be used without further processing for a single off-site construction project for which an erosion and sedimentation control plan has been approved in accordance with Article 4 of Chapter 113A of the General Statutes.
2. The affected land, including nonpublic access roads, does not exceed five acres.
3. The excavation or grading is completed within one year.
4. The excavation or grading does not involve blasting, the removal of material from rivers or streams, the disposal of off-site waste on the affected land, or the surface disposal of groundwater beyond the affected land.
5. The excavation or grading is not in violation of any local ordinance.
6. An erosion and sedimentation control plan for the excavation or grading has been approved in accordance with Article 4 of Chapter 113A of the General Statutes.
g. Excavation or grading when conducted solely for activities undertaken on agricultural land that are exempt, pursuant to G.S. 113A-52.01(1), from the requirements of Article 4 of Chapter 113A of the General Statutes.
(8) "Neighboring" means in close proximity, in the immediate vicinity, or in actual contact.
(9) "Operator" means any person or persons, any partnership, limited partnership, or corporation, or any association of persons, engaged in mining operations, whether individually, jointly, or through subsidiaries, agents, employees, or contractors.
(10) "Overburden" means the earth, rock, and other materials that lie above the natural deposit of minerals.
(10a) "Parent" has the same meaning as in 17 Code of Federal Regulations § 240.12(b)-2 (1 April 1992 Edition), which defines "parent" as an affiliate that directly, or indirectly through one or more intermediaries, controls another person.
(11) "Peak" means overburden removed from its natural position and deposited elsewhere in the shape of conical piles or projecting points.
(12) "Reclamation" means the reasonable rehabilitation of the affected land for useful purposes, and the protection of the natural resources of the surrounding area. Although both the need for and the practicability of reclamation will control the type and degree of reclamation in any specific instance, the basic objective will be to establish on a continuing basis the vegetative cover, soil stability, water conditions and safety conditions appropriate to the area.
(13) "Reclamation plan" means the operator's written proposal as required and approved by the Department for reclamation of the affected land, which shall include but not be limited to:
a. Proposed practices to protect adjacent surface resources;
b. Specifications for surface gradient restoration to a surface suitable for the proposed subsequent use of the land after reclamation is completed, and proposed method of accomplishment;
c. Manner and type of revegetation or other surface treatment of the affected areas;
d. Method of prevention or elimination of conditions that will be hazardous to animal or fish life in or adjacent to the area;
e. Method of compliance with State air and water pollution laws;
f. Method of rehabilitation of settling ponds;
g. Method of control of contaminants and disposal of mining refuse;
h. Method of restoration or establishment of stream channels and stream banks to a condition minimizing erosion, siltation, and other pollution;
i. Maps and other supporting documents as may be reasonably required by the Department; and
j. A time schedule that meets the requirements of G.S. 74-53.
(14) "Refuse" means all waste soil, rock, mineral, scrap, tailings, slimes, and other material directly connected with the mining, cleaning, and preparation of substances mined and shall include all waste materials deposited on or in the permit area from other sources.
(15) "Ridge" means overburden removed from its natural position and deposited elsewhere in the shape of a long, narrow elevation.
(16) "Spoil bank" means a deposit of excavated overburden or refuse.
(16a) "Subsidiary" has the same meaning as in 17 Code of Federal Regulations § 240.12(b)-2 (1 April 1992 Edition), which defines "subsidiary" as an affiliate that is directly, or indirectly through one or more intermediaries, controlled by another person.
(17) "Termination of mining" means cessation of mining operations with intent not to resume, or cessation of mining operations as a result of expiration or revocation of the permit of the operator. Whenever the Department shall have reason to believe that a mining operation has terminated, the Department shall give the operator written notice of its intention to declare the operation terminated, and the operator shall have an opportunity to appear within 30 days and present evidence that the operation is continuing; where the Department finds that the evidence is satisfactory, the Department shall not declare the mining operation terminated. (1971, c. 545, s. 4; 1973, c. 1262, ss. 33, 86; 1977, c. 771, s. 4; c. 845, s. 1; 1989, c. 727, s. 218(13); 1993 (Reg. Sess., 1994), c. 568, s. 1; 1997-443, s. 11A.119(a); 1999-82, s. 1; 2002-165, s. 2.1; 2012-143, s. 1(d); 2014-4, s. 5(c); 2015-241, s. 14.30(u); 2015-263, s. 23.)
§ 74-50. Permits - General.
(a) No operator shall engage in mining without having first obtained from the Department an operating permit that covers the affected land and that has not been terminated, revoked, suspended for the period in question, or otherwise become invalid. An operating permit may be modified from time to time to include land neighboring the affected land, in accordance with procedures set forth in G.S. 74-52. A separate permit shall be required for each mining operation that is not on land neighboring a mining operation for which the operator has a valid permit.
(b) As used in subsection (b1) of this section:
(1) "Land adjoining" means any parcel or tract of land that is not owned in whole or in part by, or that is not under the control of, the applicant or operator or any lessor, affiliate, parent, or subsidiary of the applicant or operator and that is contiguous to either: (i) any parcel or tract that includes the permitted area or (ii) any parcels or tracts of land that are owned in whole or in part by or under the control of the applicant or operator or any lessor, affiliate, parent, or subsidiary of the applicant or operator and that, taken together, are contiguous to the permitted area.
(2) "Permit boundaries" means the boundaries of a permitted area.
(3) "Permitted area" means affected land and all other land used for or designated as buffers or reserves, or used for other purposes, as delineated in a mining permit or an application for a mining permit.
(b1) At the time of an application for a new mining permit or for a modification of a mining permit to add land to the permitted area, the applicant or operator shall make a reasonable effort, satisfactory to the Department, to notify:
(1) The chief administrative officer of each county and municipality in which any part of the permitted area is located.
(2) The owners of record of land adjoining that lies within 1,000 feet of the permit boundaries.
(3) The owners of record of land that lies directly across and is contiguous to any highway; creek, stream, river, or other watercourse; railroad track; or utility or other public right-of-way and that lies within 1,000 feet of the permit boundaries. For purposes of this subdivision, "highway" means a highway, as defined in G.S. 20-4.01(13) that has four lanes of travel or less and that has not been designated a part of the Interstate Highway System.
(b2) The notice shall inform the owners of record and chief administrative officers of the opportunity to submit written comments to the Department regarding the proposed mining operation and the opportunity to request a public hearing regarding the proposed mining operation. Requests for public hearing shall be made within 30 days of issuance of the notice.
(b3) When the Department receives an application for a new mining permit or for a modification of a mining permit to add land to the permitted area, the Department shall send a notice of the application to each of the following agencies with a request that each agency review and provide written comment on the application within 30 days of the date on which the request is made:
(1) Division of Air Quality, Department of Environmental Quality.
(2) Division of Parks and Recreation, Department of Natural and Cultural Resources.
(3) Repealed by Session Laws 2013-413, s. 57(b), effective August 23, 2013.
(4) Division of Water Resources, Department of Environmental Quality.
(5) North Carolina Geological Survey, Division of Energy, Mineral, and Land Resources, Department of Environmental Quality.
(6) Wildlife Resources Commission, Department of Environmental Quality.
(7) Office of Archives and History, Department of Natural and Cultural Resources.
(8) United States Fish and Wildlife Service, United States Department of the Interior.
(9) Any other federal or State agency that the Department determines to be appropriate, including the Division of Coastal Management, the Division of Marine Fisheries, and the Division of Waste Management of the Department of Environmental Quality, and the Department of Transportation.
(c) No permit shall become effective until the operator has deposited with the Department an acceptable performance bond or other security pursuant to G.S. 74-54. If at any time the bond or other security, or any part thereof, shall lapse for any reason other than a release by the Department, and the lapsed bond or security is not replaced by the operator within 30 days after notice of the lapse, the permit to which the lapsed bond or security pertains shall be automatically revoked.
(d) Except as provided in subsection (d1) of this section, permits for mining operations shall be issued for the life-of-site of the operation unless revoked as otherwise provided under this Article. For purposes of this section, "life-of-site" means the period from the initial receipt of a permit from the operation until the mining operation terminates and the reclamation required under the approved reclamation plan is completed. Termination of a permit shall not have the effect of relieving the operator of any obligations that the operator has incurred under an approved reclamation plan or otherwise. Where the mining operation itself has terminated, no permit shall be required in order to carry out reclamation measures under the reclamation plan.
(d1) Permits for mining operations conducted on real property that is leased from a public entity shall be issued for the life-of-lease. For purposes of this subsection, the following terms apply: (i) "life-of-lease" means the duration of the lease between the owner or operator of the mining operation and a public entity and (ii) "public entity" means the State, any State agency, State college or university, county, municipal corporation, local board of education, community college, special district, or other political subdivision of the State. Termination of a permit shall not have the effect of relieving the operator of any obligations that the operator has incurred under an approved reclamation plan or otherwise. Where the mining operation itself has terminated, no permit shall be required in order to carry out reclamation measures under the reclamation plan. (1971, c. 545, s. 5; 1973, c. 1262, s. 33; 1981, c. 787, s. 1; 1993 (Reg. Sess., 1994), c. 568, s. 2; 2000-116, s. 1; 2002-159, s. 35(d); 2012-143, s. 1(f); 2013-413, s. 57(b); 2014-115, s. 17; 2015-241, s. 14.30(kk); 2017-209, s. 13(a).)
§ 74-51. Permits - Application, granting, conditions.
(a) Any operator desiring to engage in mining shall make written application to the Department for a permit. The application shall be upon a form furnished by the Department and shall fully state the information called for; in addition, the applicant may be required to furnish any other information as may be deemed necessary by the Department in order adequately to enforce this Article. The application shall be accompanied by a reclamation plan that meets the requirements of G.S. 74-53. No permit shall be issued until a reclamation plan has been approved by the Department. The application shall be accompanied by a signed agreement, in a form specified by the Department, that in the event a bond forfeiture is ordered pursuant to G.S. 74-59, the Department and its representatives and contractors shall have the right to make whatever entries on the land and to take whatever actions may be necessary in order to carry out reclamation that the operator has failed to complete.
(b) Before deciding whether to grant a new permit, the Department shall circulate copies of a notice of application for review and comment as it deems advisable. The Department shall grant or deny the permit requested as expeditiously as possible, but in no event later than 60 days after the application form and any relevant and material supplemental information reasonably required shall have been filed with the Department, or if a public hearing is held, within 30 days following the hearing and the filing of any relevant and material supplemental information reasonably required by the Department. Priority consideration shall be given to applicants who submit evidence that the mining proposed will be for the purpose of supplying materials to the Board of Transportation.
(c) If the Department determines, based on public comment relevant to the provisions of this Article, that significant public interest exists, the Department shall conduct a public hearing on any application for a new mining permit or for a modification of a mining permit to add land to the permitted area, as defined in G.S. 74-50(b). The hearing shall be held before the Department reaches a final decision on the application, and in making its determination, the Department shall give full consideration to all comments submitted at the public hearing. The public hearing shall be held within 60 days of the end of the 30-day period within which any requests for the public hearing shall be made. A public hearing shall not be required for a modification of a mining permit to extend the duration of the permit to a life-of-site, or life-of-lease, pursuant to G.S. 74-50(d) or (d1), respectively.
(d) The Department may deny the permit upon finding:
(1) That any requirement of this Article or any rule promulgated hereunder will be violated by the proposed operation;
(2) That the operation will have unduly adverse effects on potable groundwater supplies, wildlife, or fresh water, estuarine, or marine fisheries;
(3) That the operation will violate standards of air quality, surface water quality, or groundwater quality that have been promulgated by the Department;
(4) That the operation will constitute a direct and substantial physical hazard to public health and safety or to a neighboring dwelling house, school, church, hospital, commercial or industrial building, public road or other public property, excluding matters relating to use of a public road;
(5) That the operation will have a significantly adverse effect on the purposes of a publicly owned park, forest or recreation area;
(6) That previous experience with similar operations indicates a substantial possibility that the operation will result in substantial deposits of sediment in stream beds or lakes, landslides, or acid water pollution; or
(7) That the applicant or any parent, subsidiary, or other affiliate of the applicant or parent has not been in substantial compliance with this Article, rules adopted under this Article, or other laws or rules of this State for the protection of the environment or has not corrected all violations that the applicant or any parent, subsidiary, or other affiliate of the applicant or parent may have committed under this Article or rules adopted under this Article and that resulted in:
a. Revocation of a permit,
b. Forfeiture of part or all of a bond or other security,
c. Conviction of a misdemeanor under G.S. 74-64,
d. Any other court order issued under G.S. 74-64, or
e. Final assessment of a civil penalty under G.S. 74-64, [or]
f. Failure to pay the application processing fee required under G.S. 74-54.1.
(e) In the absence of any finding set out in subsection (d) of this section, or if adverse effects are mitigated by the applicant as determined necessary by the Department, a permit shall be granted.
(f) Any permit issued shall be expressly conditioned upon compliance with all requirements of the approved reclamation plan for the operation and with any other reasonable and appropriate requirements and safeguards that the Department determines are necessary to assure that the operation will comply fully with the requirements and objectives of this Article. These conditions may, among others, include a requirement of visual screening, vegetative or otherwise, so as to screen the view of the operation from public highways, public parks, or residential areas, where the Department finds screening to be feasible and desirable. Violation of any conditions of the permit shall be treated as a violation of this Article and shall constitute a basis for suspension or revocation of the permit.
(g) If the Department denies an application for a permit, the Department shall notify the operator in writing, stating the reasons for the denial and any modifications in the application that would make the application acceptable. The operator may thereupon modify and resubmit the application, or file an appeal as provided in G.S. 74-61.
(h) Upon approval of an application, the Department shall set the amount of the performance bond or other security that is to be required pursuant to G.S. 74-54. The operator shall have 60 days after the Department mails a notice of the required bond to the operator in which to deposit the required bond or security with the Department. The operating permit shall not be issued until receipt of this deposit.
(i) When one operator succeeds to the interest of another in any uncompleted mining operation by virtue of a sale, lease, assignment, or otherwise, the Department may release the first operator from the duties imposed upon the operator by this Article with reference to the mining operation and transfer the permit to the successor operator; provided, that both operators have complied with the requirements of this Article and that the successor operator assumes the duties of the first operator with reference to reclamation of the land and posts a suitable bond or other security. (1971, c. 545, s. 6; 1973, c. 507, s. 5; 1977, c. 771, s. 4; c. 845, s. 2; 1981, c. 787, ss. 2, 3; 1987, c. 827, c. 82; 1989, c. 727, s. 11; 1993 (Reg. Sess., 1994), c. 568, s. 3; 2000-116, s. 2; 2017-209, s. 13(b).)
§ 74-52. Permit modifications.
(a) Any operator engaged in mining under an operating permit may apply at any time for modification of the permit. The application shall be in writing upon forms furnished by the Department and shall fully state the information called for. The applicant must provide the Department with any additional information necessary to satisfy application requirements. In addition, the applicant may be required to furnish any other information as may be deemed necessary by the Department in order adequately to enforce the Article.
(b) Repealed by Session Laws 2017-209, s. 13(c), effective October 4, 2017.
(c) A modification under this section may affect the land area covered by the permit, the approved reclamation plan coupled with the permit, or other terms and conditions of the permit. A permit may be modified to include land neighboring the affected land, but not other lands. The reclamation plan may be modified in any manner, so long as the Department determines that the modified plan fully meets the standards set forth in G.S. 74-53 and that the modifications would be generally consistent with the bases for issuance of the original permit. Other terms and conditions may be modified only where the Department determines that the permit as modified would meet all requirements of G.S. 74-50 and [G.S.] 74-51.
(d) No modification of a permit shall become effective until any required changes have been made in the performance bond or other security posted under the provisions of G.S. 74-54, so as to assure the performance of obligations assumed by the operator under the permit and reclamation plan. (1971, c. 545, s. 7; 1993 (Reg. Sess., 1994), c. 568, s. 4; 2017-209, s. 13(c).)
§ 74-53. Reclamation plan.
The operator shall submit with his application for an operating permit a proposed reclamation plan. Said plan shall include as a minimum, each of the elements specified in the definition of "reclamation plan" in G.S. 74-49, plus such other information as may be reasonably required by the Department. The reclamation plan shall provide that reclamation activities, particularly those relating to control of erosion, shall to the extent feasible be conducted simultaneously with mining operations and in any event be initiated at the earliest practicable time after completion or termination of mining on any segment of the permit area. The plan shall provide that reclamation activities shall be completed within two years after completion or termination of mining on each segment of the area for which a permit is requested unless a longer period is specifically permitted by the Department.
The Department may approve, approve subject to stated modifications, or reject the plan which is proposed. The Department shall approve a reclamation plan (as submitted or as modified) only where it finds that it adequately provides for those actions necessary to achieve the purposes and requirements of this Article, and that in addition, the plan meets the following minimum standards:
(1) The final slopes in all excavations in soil, sand, gravel, and other unconsolidated materials shall be at such an angle as to minimize the possibility of slides and be consistent with the future use of the land.
(2) Provisions for safety to persons and to adjoining property must be provided in all excavations in rock.
(3) At open pit mining operations, all overburden and spoil shall be left in a configuration which is in accordance with accepted conservation practices and which is suitable for the proposed subsequent use of the land.
(4) In no event shall any provision of this section be construed to allow small pools of water that are, or are likely to become, noxious, odious, or foul to collect or remain on the mined area. Suitable drainage ditches or conduits shall be constructed or installed to avoid such conditions. Lakes, ponds, and marsh lands shall be considered adequately reclaimed lands when approved by the Department.
(5) The type of vegetative cover and methods of its establishment shall be specified, and in every case shall conform to accepted and recommended agronomic and reforestation restoration practices as established by the North Carolina Agricultural Experiment Station and Department of Environmental Quality. Advice and technical assistance may be obtained through the State soil and water conservation districts.
The Department shall be authorized to approve a reclamation plan despite the fact that such plan does not provide for reclamation treatment of every portion of the affected land, where the Department finds that because of special conditions such treatment would not be feasible for particular areas and that the plan takes all practical steps to minimize the extent of such areas. (1971, c. 545, s. 8; 1973, c. 1262, s. 86; 1977, c. 771, s. 4; 1989, c. 727, s. 218(14); 1991, c. 342, s. 1; 1997-443, s. 11A.119(a); 2015-241, s. 14.30(u).)
§ 74-54. Bonds.
(a) Each applicant for an operating permit, or for the modification of an existing permit shall, following the approval of the application, file and maintain in force a bond in favor of the State of North Carolina, executed by a surety approved by the Commissioner of Insurance, in the amount set forth below. The bond herein provided for must be continuous in nature and shall remain in force until cancelled by the surety. Cancellation by the surety shall be effectuated only upon 60 days written notice thereof to the Department and to the operator.
(b) The applicant shall have the option of filing a separate bond for each operating permit or of filing a blanket bond covering all mining operations within the State for which the applicant holds a permit. The amount of each bond shall be based upon the area of affected land to be reclaimed under the approved reclamation plan or plans to which the bond pertains, less any area where reclamation has been completed and released from coverage by the Department, pursuant to G.S. 74-56, or based on any other criteria established by the Commission, but shall not exceed one million dollars ($1,000,000). The Department shall set the amount of the required bond in all cases, based upon a schedule established by the Commission.
(c) The bond shall be conditioned upon the faithful performance of the requirements set forth in this Article and of the rules adopted under this Article. Upon filing the bond with the Department, the operator shall lose all right, title, and interest in the bond while the bond is held by the Department. Liability under the bond shall be maintained as long as reclamation is not completed in compliance with the approved reclamation plan unless released only upon written notification from the Department. Notification shall be given upon completion of compliance or acceptance by the Department of a substitute bond. In no event shall the liability of the surety exceed the amount of the surety bond required by this section.
(d) In lieu of the surety bond required by this section, the operator may file with the Department a cash deposit, an irrevocable letter of credit, a guaranty of payment from an acceptable bank, an assignment of a savings account in an acceptable bank on an assignment form prescribed by the Department, or other security acceptable to the Department. Security shall be subject to the release provisions of G.S. 74-56.
(e) If the license to do business in North Carolina of any surety upon a bond filed pursuant to this Article should be suspended or revoked, the operator shall, within 60 days after receiving notice thereof, substitute for the surety a good and sufficient corporate surety authorized to do business in this State. Upon failure of the operator to substitute sufficient surety within the time specified, the operator's permit shall be automatically revoked. (1971, c. 545, s. 9; 1981, c. 787, s. 4; 1987, c. 827, s. 85; 1993 (Reg. Sess., 1994), c. 568, s. 5; 2012-143, s. 1(d); 2013-410, s. 7(a); 2017-209, s. 13(d).)
§ 74-54.1. Permit fees.
(a) The fee schedule for the processing of permit applications, transfers, and modifications is as follows:
0-25 acres 26+ acres
New Permit Applications $3,750.00 $5,000.00
Permit Modifications $750.00 $1,000.00
Permit Transfers $100.00 $100.00
(a1) In addition to the fees set forth in subsection (a) of this section, permittees shall pay an annual operating fee of four hundred dollars ($400.00) per permit per year as set forth in G.S. 74-55. The Department may charge a late fee of fifty dollars ($50.00) per month per permit for every month or partial month that payment of the annual operating fee is delinquent.
(b) Fees collected under this section shall be credited to the General Fund and shall be applied to the costs of administering this Article.
(c) Repealed by Session Laws 2017-10, s. 4.1, effective May 4, 2017. (1989 (Reg. Sess., 1990), c. 944, s. 1; 1991 (Reg. Sess., 1992), c. 1039, s. 16; 1993, c. 513, s. 3; 1993 (Reg. Sess., 1994), c. 568, s. 6; 2007-323, s. 30.2(a); 2012-143, s. 1(d); 2013-410, s. 7(b); 2015-241, s. 14.16(b); 2017-10, s. 4.1; 2017-209, s. 13(e).)
§ 74-55. Reclamation report.
(a) By September 1 of each year, the operator shall file a report of activities completed during the preceding year on a form prescribed by the Department, which includes all of the following:
(1) Identify the mine, the operator and the permit number.
(2) State acreage disturbed by mining in the last 12-month period.
(3) State and describe amount and type of reclamation carried out in the last 12-month period.
(4) Estimate acreage to be newly disturbed by mining in the next 12-month period.
(5) Provide such maps as may be specifically requested by the Department.
(6) Include the annual operating fee pursuant to G.S. 74-54.1(a1).
(b) When filing the annual report, the permittee shall pay the annual operating fee for the permit to the Department by September 1 of each year until the permit has been terminated by the Department. The Department may assess and collect a monthly penalty for each annual report or annual operating fee not filed by September 30 of each year until the annual report and annual operating fee are filed with the Department. If the required annual report and operating fee, including any late payment penalties, are not filed by December 31 of each year, the Department shall give written notice to the operator and shall then initiate permit revocation proceedings in accordance with G.S. 74-58. (1971, c. 545, s. 10; 1987, c. 827, s. 85; 2017-209, s. 13(f); 2020-74, s. 10.)
§ 74-56. Inspection and approval of reclamation; bond release or forfeiture.
(a) The Department may direct investigations as it may reasonably deem necessary to carry out its duties as prescribed by this Article, and for this purpose may enter at reasonable times upon any mining operation for the purpose of determining compliance with this Article and any rules adopted under this Article and for determining compliance with the terms and conditions of a mining permit, but for no other purpose. No person shall refuse entry or access to any authorized representative of the Department who enters the mining operation for purposes of inspection or other official duties and who presents appropriate credentials; nor shall any person obstruct, hamper, or interfere with the representative while the representative is carrying out official duties. Upon arriving at the site, the representative of the Department shall make every reasonable effort to notify the operator or the operator's agent that the representative of the Department intends to inspect the site. Upon receipt of the operator's annual report or report of completion of reclamation and at any other reasonable time the Department may elect, the Department shall cause the permit area to be inspected to determine whether the operator has complied with the reclamation plan, the requirements of this Article, any rules adopted under this Article, and the terms and conditions of the permit.
(b) The operator shall proceed with reclamation as scheduled in the approved reclamation plan. The Department shall conduct an inspection and give written notice to the operator of any deficiencies noted. The operator shall thereupon commence action within 30 days to rectify these deficiencies and shall diligently proceed until they have been corrected. The Department may extend performance periods referred to in this section and in G.S. 74-53 for delays clearly beyond the operator's control, but only in cases where the Department finds that the operator is making every reasonable effort to comply.
(c) Upon completion of reclamation of an area of affected land, the operator shall notify the Department. The Department shall make an inspection of the area, and if it finds that reclamation has been properly completed, it shall notify the operator in writing and release the operator from further obligations regarding the affected land. At the same time the Department shall release all or the appropriate portion of any performance bond or other security that the operator has posted under G.S. 74-54.
(d) If at any time the Department finds that reclamation of the permit area is not proceeding in accordance with the reclamation plan and that the operator has failed within 30 days after notice to commence corrective action, or if the Department finds that reclamation has not been properly completed in conformance with the reclamation plan within two years, or longer if authorized by the Department, after termination of mining on any segment of the permit area, the Department shall initiate forfeiture proceedings against the bond or other security filed by the operator under G.S. 74-59. In addition, failure to implement the reclamation plan shall constitute grounds for suspension or revocation of the operator's permit, as provided in G.S. 74-58. (1971, c. 545, s. 11; 1987, c. 827, s. 85; 1993 (Reg. Sess., 1994), c. 568, s. 7; 1995, c. 504, s. 3.)
§ 74-57. Departmental modification of permit or reclamation plan.
If at any time it appears to the Department from its inspection of the affected land that the activities under the reclamation plan and other terms and conditions of the permit are failing to achieve the purposes and requirements of this Article, it shall give the operator written notice of that fact, of its intention to modify the reclamation plan and other terms and conditions of the permit in a stated manner, and of the operator's right to a hearing on the proposed modification at a stated time and place. The date for such hearing shall be not less than 30 nor more than 60 days after the date of the notice unless the Department and the operator shall mutually agree on another date. Following the hearing the Department shall have the right to modify the reclamation plan and other terms and conditions of the permit in the manner stated in the notice or in such other manner as it deems appropriate in view of the evidence submitted at the hearing. (1971, c. 545, s. 12.)
§ 74-58. Suspension or revocation of permit.
(a) Whenever the Department shall have reason to believe that a violation of (i) this Article, (ii) any rules adopted under this Article, or (iii) the terms and conditions of a permit, including the approved reclamation plan, has taken place, it shall serve written notice of the apparent violation upon the operator, specifying the facts constituting the apparent violation and informing the operator of the operator's right to an informal conference with the Department. The date for an informal conference shall be not less than 15 nor more than 30 days after the date of the notice, unless the Department and the operator mutually agree on another date. If the operator or the operator's representative does not appear at the informal conference, or if the Department following the informal conference finds that there has been a violation, the Department may suspend the permit until the violation is corrected or may revoke the permit where the violation appears to be willful, or where the permittee has failed to pay the fee or late payment penalties required by G.S. 74-55(b).
(b) The effective date of any suspension or revocation shall be 30 days following the date of the decision. The filing of a petition for a contested case under G.S. 74-61 shall stay the effective date until issuance of a final decision. If the Department finds at the time of its initial decision that any delay in correcting a violation would result in imminent peril to life or danger to property or to the environment, it shall promptly initiate a proceeding for injunctive relief under G.S. 74-64 hereof and Rule 65 of the Rules of Civil Procedure. The pendency of any appeal from a suspension or revocation of a permit shall have no effect upon an action for injunctive relief.
(c) Any operator whose permit has been suspended or revoked shall be denied a new permit or reinstatement of the suspended permit to engage in mining until the operator gives evidence satisfactory to the Department of the operator's ability and intent to fully comply with the provisions of this Article and rules adopted under this Article, and the terms and conditions of the permit, including the approved reclamation plan, and that the operator has satisfactorily corrected all previous violations. (1971, c. 545, s. 13; 1973, c. 1262, s. 33; 1979, c. 252, s. 1; 1987, c. 827, s. 82A; 1993 (Reg. Sess., 1994), c. 568, s. 8; 2011-398, s. 29; 2017-209, s. 13(g).)
§ 74-59. Bond forfeiture proceedings.
Whenever the Department determines the necessity of a bond forfeiture under the provisions of G.S. 74-56, or whenever it revokes an operating permit under the provisions of G.S. 74-58, it shall request the Attorney General to initiate forfeiture proceedings against the bond or other security filed by the operator under G.S. 74-54; provided, however, that no such request shall be made for forfeiture of a bond until the surety has been given written notice of the violation and a reasonable opportunity to take corrective action. Such proceedings shall be brought in the name of the State of North Carolina. In such proceedings, the face amount of the bond or other security, less any amount released by the Department pursuant to G.S. 74-56, shall be treated as liquidated damages and subject to forfeiture. All funds collected as a result of such proceedings shall be placed in a special fund and used by the Department to carry out, to the extent possible, the reclamation measures which the operator has failed to complete. If the amount of the bond or other security filed pursuant to this section proves to be insufficient to complete the required reclamation pursuant to the approved reclamation plan, the operator shall be liable to the Department for any excess above the amount of the bond or other security which may be required to defray the cost of completing the required reclamation. (1971, c. 545, s. 14.)
§ 74-60. Notice.
Whenever in this Article written notice is required to be given by the Department, such notice shall be mailed by registered or certified mail to the permanent address of the operator set forth in his most recent application for an operating permit or for a modification of such permit. No other notice shall be required. (1971, c. 545, s. 15; 2017-209, s. 13(h).)
§ 74-61. Administrative and judicial review of decisions.
An applicant, permittee, or affected person may contest a decision of the Department to deny, suspend, modify, or revoke a permit or a reclamation plan, to refuse to release part or all of a bond or other security, or to assess a civil penalty by filing a petition for a contested case under G.S. 150B-23 within 30 days after the Department makes the decision. Article 4 of Chapter 150B of the General Statutes governs judicial review of a decision of the Commission. (1971, c. 545, s. 16; 1973, c. 1262, s. 33; 1977, c. 771, s. 4; 1979, c. 252, s. 3; 1987, c. 827, s. 86; 1993 (Reg. Sess., 1994), c. 568, s. 9; 2011-398, s. 30.)
§ 74-62. Repealed by Session Laws 1987, c. 827, s. 83.
§ 74-63. Rules.
The Commission may adopt rules necessary to administer this Article. (1971, c. 545, s. 18; 1973, c. 1262, s. 33; c. 1331, s. 3; 1987, c. 827, s. 84.)
§ 74-64. Penalties for violations.
(a) Civil Penalties.
(1) a. A civil penalty of not more than five thousand dollars ($5,000) may be assessed by the Department against any person who fails to secure a valid operating permit prior to engaging in mining, as required by G.S. 74-50. No civil penalty shall be assessed until the operator has been given notice of the violation pursuant to G.S. 74-60. Each day of a continuing violation shall constitute a separate violation and a civil penalty of not more than five thousand dollars ($5,000) per day may be assessed for each day the violation continues.
b. Any permitted operator who violates any of the provisions of this Article, any rules adopted under this Article, or any of the terms and conditions of the mining permit shall be subject to a civil penalty of not more than five hundred dollars ($500.00). Each day of a continuing violation shall constitute a separate violation. Prior to the assessment of any civil penalty, written notice of the violation shall be given. The notice shall describe the violation with reasonable particularity, shall specify a time period reasonably calculated to permit the violator to complete actions to correct the violation, and shall state that failure to correct the violation within that period may result in the assessment of a civil penalty.
c. In determining the amount of the penalty, the Department shall consider the degree and extent of harm caused by the violation, the cost of rectifying the damage, the amount of money the violator saved by the noncompliance, whether the violation was committed willfully, and the prior record of the violator in complying or failing to comply with this Article.
(2) The Department shall determine the amount of the civil penalty to be assessed pursuant to G.S. 74-64(a)(1) and shall give notice to the operator of the assessment of the civil penalty pursuant to G.S. 74-60, or by any means authorized by G.S. 1A-1, Rule 4. The notice shall set forth in detail the violation or violations for which the civil penalty has been assessed. The operator may appeal the assessment of any civil penalty assessed pursuant to this section in accordance with the procedures set forth in G.S. 74-61.
(3) The notice of assessment shall direct the violator to pay the assessment or contest the assessment as provided in G.S. 74-61. If the violator does not pay the assessment within 30 days after receipt of the notice of assessment or within 30 days after receipt of the final agency decision, where the assessment has been contested, the Department shall request the Attorney General to institute a civil action in superior court to recover the amount of the penalty. A civil action under this section shall be filed within three years of the date the final agency decision was served on the violator.
(4) The clear proceeds of civil penalties collected pursuant to this section shall be remitted to the Civil Penalty and Forfeiture Fund in accordance with G.S. 115C-457.2.
(5) In addition to other remedies, the Department may request the Attorney General to institute any appropriate action or proceedings to prevent, restrain, correct or abate any violation of this Article or any rules adopted under this Article, or the obstruction, hampering, or interference with an authorized representative of the Department while the representative is carrying out official duties pursuant to this Article.
(b) Criminal Penalties. - In addition to other penalties provided by this Article, any operator who engages in mining in willful violation of the provisions of this Article or of any rules promulgated hereunder or who willfully misrepresents any fact in any action taken pursuant to this Article or willfully gives false information in any application or report required by this Article shall be guilty of a Class 3 misdemeanor and, upon conviction thereof, shall only be fined not less than one hundred dollars ($100.00) nor more than one thousand dollars ($1,000) for each offense. Each day of continued violation after written notification shall be considered a separate offense. (1971, c. 545, s. 19; 1979, c. 252, s. 2; 1981, c. 787, ss. 7, 8; 1987, c. 246, s. 1; c. 827, s. 85; 1989 (Reg. Sess., 1990), c. 1024, s. 16; 1993, c. 539, s. 555; 1994, Ex. Sess., c. 24, s. 14(c); 1993 (Reg. Sess., 1994), c. 568, s. 10; 1998-215, s. 42.)
§ 74-65. Effect on local zoning regulations.
No provision of this Article shall be construed to supersede or otherwise affect or prevent the enforcement of any zoning regulation or ordinance duly adopted by an incorporated city or county or by any agency or department of the State of North Carolina, except insofar as a provision of said regulation or ordinance is in direct conflict with this Article. (1971, c. 545, s. 20.)
§ 74-66. Private relief against nuisance or hazard.
No provision of this Article shall be construed to restrict or impair the right of any private or public person, association, corporation, partnership, officer, or agency to bring any legal or equitable action for redress against nuisances or hazards. (1971, c. 545, s. 21.)
§ 74-67. Exemptions.
The provisions of this Article shall not apply to those activities of the Department of Transportation, nor of any person, firm, or corporation acting under contract with the Department of Transportation, on highway rights-of-way or borrow pits maintained solely in connection with the construction, repair, and maintenance of the public road systems of North Carolina; provided, that this exemption shall not become effective until the Department of Transportation shall have adopted reclamation standards applying to such activities and such standards have been approved by the Commission. The provisions of this Article shall not apply to mining on federal lands under a valid permit from the U.S. Forest Service or the U.S. Bureau of Land Management. (1971, c. 545, s. 22; 1973, c. 507, s. 5; c. 1262, s. 33; 1977, c. 464, s. 34; 2012-143, s. 1(d); 2013-410, s. 7(c).)
§ 74-68. Cooperation with other agencies; contracts and grants.
The Department, with the approval of the Governor, and in order to accomplish any of the purposes of the Department, may apply for, accept, and expend grants from the federal government and its agencies and from any foundation, corporation, association, or individual; may enter into contracts relating to such grants; and may comply with the terms, conditions, and limitations of any such grant or contract. The Department may engage in such research as may be appropriate to further its ability to accomplish its purposes under this Article, and may contract for such research to be done by others. The Department may cooperate with any federal, state, or local government or agency, of this or any other state, in mutual programs to improve the enforcement of this Article or to accomplish its purposes more successfully. (1971, c. 545, s. 23.)
§§ 74-69 through 74-74. Reserved for future codification purposes.