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DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION
Bureau of Mining Programs
Coal and Noncoal Surface Mining Activity Permit Pre-Application
Upon publication of notice as final in the
Surface Mining Conservation and Reclamation Act (52 P.S. §§ 1396.1 –
1396.31), Noncoal Surface Mining Conservation and Reclamation Act
(52 P.S. §§ 3301 – 3326), and Clean Streams Law (35 P.S. §§ 691.1 –
The Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) encourages permit
applicants to request a pre-application review and field conference in order
to identify significant items that will need to be addressed in the formal
This document describes the voluntary pre-application process
recommended to facilitate discussion between a mine operator and DEP
concerning items which will need to be addressed in the formal permit
application. This process is beneficial for ensuring the submission of a
complete permit application, with the goal of reducing the time required to
process and make a decision on a permit application.
The guidance is applicable to all coal and noncoal mine operators.
The policies and procedures outlined in this guidance document are
intended to supplement existing requirements. Nothing in the policies or
procedures shall affect regulatory requirements.
The policies and procedures herein are not an adjudication or a regulation.
DEP does not intend to give these rules that weight or deference. This
document establishes the framework within which DEP will exercise its
administrative discretion in the future. DEP reserves the discretion to
deviate from this policy statement if circumstances warrant.
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Pursuant to 25 Pa. Code § 86.39 (final permit action; Surface and Underground Coal Mining) and
§ 77.127 (final permit action; Noncoal Mining) of DEP regulations, DEP’s goal is to make permit
decisions in a timely manner upon the receipt of a complete, technically adequate application. Standard
operating procedures provide certain and predictable review schedules for applicants who submit a
complete, technically adequate application that addresses all regulatory and statutory requirements. The
pre-application process, prior to formal application submission, is designed for all parties involved -
DEP, consultant, applicant and other agencies - to discuss project details and seek clarification regarding
applicable regulatory and statutory requirements before the formal permitting process begins and is open
to public comment. Undertaking the pre-application process is
for coal and noncoal permit
proposals, but DEP
the process, especially for projects that have site-specific
issues or a complex operations plan. The Governor’s Executive Order 2012-11 ‘‘Permit Decision
Guarantee for the Department of Environmental Protection’’ signed July 24, 2012, encourages
applicants to undergo the pre-application process as soon as practicable.
The purposes of a pre-application review are to:
Facilitate early identification of items and issues that may delay review and/or approval of the
formal mining permit application subsequently submitted to the District Mining Office (DMO).
Complex or controversial issues specific to a proposed site can result in the need for additional
data collection or outside approvals to be obtained prior to permit issuance. Two examples of
this are protection of threatened or endangered species and wetland delineation.
Help the operator to evaluate the costs/benefits of proceeding on a permit that may not be
issuable as originally envisioned.
Establish a foundation for improved understanding and communication between the applicants
and DEP as the applicants and consultants remain in contact with DEP throughout development
of the project.
Lead to in the eventual submission of a complete formal permit application package with
adequate information, with the goal of reducing the processing and review time by DEP and
expediting the permitting process.
Reduce the likelihood that an application is rejected as incomplete. If any application is rejected
as incomplete, the application fee will not be refunded and a new fee will be required upon
GENERAL INFORMATION FOR PRE-APPLICATION REVIEWS – COAL AND NONCOAL
Applicants may follow the pre-application process for a proposed new permit or for a major permit
revision (for example, include expansion of the permit area or a change in final land use). Before
submitting a pre-application package for a major permit revision, please contact the DMO to discuss if
this process is appropriate.
The pre-application package will consist of a checklist specific to the permit type describing the
necessary application sections (modules) to be submitted to assure complete review of the proposed
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activities. The process for pre-applications for bituminous deep mine and coal refuse permits through
the California DMO is different than that for coal pre-applications through other DMOs; see the special
section under the heading “Coal Pre-Applications” for a description of these differences. An applicant
may submit additional application sections (modules) or forms containing potential permit information
for which the applicant is requesting a preliminary review. Permit forms are available from the DEP
eLibrary website, or from the applicant’s local DMO.
In order for DEP to adequately address significant items that may cause delays in the formal permitting
processes, the pre-application package should be as complete and accurate as possible and of similar
quality to a formal permit application. A Pennsylvania Natural Diversity Inventory (PNDI) review and
the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit application (in draft) should be
included in the pre-application because of their potential impact on the proposed operations.
Applicants should address the following items in the pre-application package, if applicable: protection
of threatened or endangered species as a result of PNDI, variances (road, house, building, structure,
park, stream, other), impact to high quality (HQ) streams (complete the Anti-degradation Supplement
for Mining Permits form 5600-PM-BMP0007), drainage to an exceptional value (EV) stream, land use
conflicts, or wetlands proposed to be affected. Any other potential conflicts or issues anticipated during
permit review or public comment should be addressed at this early stage.
Public notice is not required for a pre-application review. Affidavits, notary seals, and map seals are not
required in the documentation, however, the technical aspects of the package must be prepared by a
licensed professional as required under Pennsylvania Engineer, Land Surveyor and Geologist
Registration Law (63 P.S. §§ 148 – 158.2).
The pre-application review process does not result in a final permitting decision, which DEP may only
make following the review of a complete application. However, based on the information available
during the pre-application review, if DEP finds it unlikely that the operator can make an affirmative
demonstration that the proposed activity will meet the mining regulations necessary for approval, DEP
should inform the operator of this finding.
DEP discourages and may reject the submission of a formal application until the applicant addresses all
pre-application items of concern. DEP may reject, without action, an administratively and technically
incomplete permit application. If DEP rejects an application, DEP will not refund the application fee
and the applicant is required to pay a new application fee if or when it resubmits the application.
DEP strongly recommends that an applicant submit the full application within one (1) year from the
completion of the pre-application review. The one-year benchmark is due to the potential for changes in
water quality and site conditions - such as new home or utility construction - or changes in regulatory
requirements, science or technology. DMO will decide whether to consider full applications submitted
more than one year after completion of the pre-application review based on those factors and the
applicant’s progress in the preparation of the application. In the event that more than one year passes
from the date of the pre-application review, and the DMO cannot consider the full application because
of a change in water quality, site conditions, regulatory requirements, science or technology, the
applicant may schedule another pre-application conference to discuss those issues before formal
submission of the full application.
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NPDES APPLICATION AND DRAFT EFFLUENT LIMIT FOR DISCHARGE
If the applicant wishes to have DEP supply draft NPDES effluent limits, the applicant must submit
enough information with the pre-application package for DEP to make this evaluation. The applicant
should submit a complete NPDES application, as well as application sections on erosion and
sedimentation (E&S) and treatment facilities, and show the proposed facilities on the plans. Details of
the water handling plans should also be provided to allow DEP to identify potential problems with
NPDES limits. Pit sizes and operational information are needed for DEP to make recommendations
related to pits prior to formal application submittal. Typically, at least four samples for each stream
sample point are necessary to compute draft effluent limits for the discharge.
The pre-application process is recommended for all applicants applying for both anthracite and
bituminous surface mining permits. Mine operators should plan to submit pre-applications at least
180 days prior to anticipated submittal of formal applications to allow sufficient time for DEP review
The pre-application process for coal surface mining permits is described in form 5600-PM-BMP0391
“Coal Surface Mining Permit Pre-Application and Checklist,” which is available on the DEP website, or
from the applicant’s local DMO.
Clarifications on application information
For bituminous mines, an applicant should complete an overburden analysis for pre-application review
unless prior provisions have been made with the DMO, and the DMO agrees that overburden analysis is
likely not needed. Even in these cases, following review of the pre-application, DEP may determine that
overburden analysis is needed.
For anthracite mines, overburden analysis is generally not required because of the typically low sulfur
concentrations of the overburden and the fact that most mines involve extensive remining. An applicant
should submit an overburden analysis if the mine site is denied a waiver by the DMO prior to
An applicant should include at least two water samples for each point for DEP evaluation, and should
also include identification of replacement water supplies. The process of working out details of
replacement supplies is one of the most time consuming activities of permit review. Replacement
options should be explored in the pre-application stage. If the applicant intends to negotiate water
supply waivers with potentially affected water supply owners, the applicant should include a draft of the
Remining of areas with pre-existing discharges
When a proposal will include remining in areas with pre-existing discharges 25 Pa. Code
§§ 87.201-87.213, 88.501-513, or 90.301-90.313), the applicant should submit this information in the
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pre-application process and should include a characterization of the discharge in order to plan operations
effectively. DEP recommends six to eight months of sampling results for the pre-application submittal.
Bituminous Underground/Prep Plant/Refuse Disposal sites
The applicant should contact the California DMO to discuss plans in order to establish what information
is appropriate for submittal with a pre-application for Bituminous Prep Plant/Underground/Refuse
Disposal sites. For bituminous coal refuse disposal facilities, the applicant should complete the site
selection prior to the submitting the pre-application.
The pre-application process is voluntary for any noncoal permit but DEP strongly recommends it for
those applicants applying for a large noncoal surface mining permit that proposes any of the following:
Pumping of groundwater
Activity within the watershed of a stream with an existing or designated use as an EV or HQ
Relocation of a stream, roadway or railroad
Mineral extraction area of 50 acres or greater
Proximity to private water supplies that may be impacted
Importing material from offsite for reclamation (reclamation fill)
Mining of areas containing coal seams
Extraction of ore
An applicant should include the analytical results from at least two water samples for each monitoring
well or other sampling point for DEP evaluation, as well as preliminary modeling results for
groundwater withdrawal, and identification of replacement water supplies. If the mine is in a karst area,
DEP will give additional consideration to sinkhole formation potential due to water withdrawal and
changes to surface runoff patterns. An applicant should explore replacement water supply issues and
options in the pre-application stage.
Mine operators should plan to submit pre-applications at least 180 days prior to anticipated submittal of
formal applications to allow sufficient time for DEP review and comment. A fee is required for a
noncoal pre-application review and conference 25 Pa. Code § 77.106.
The pre-application process for noncoal surface mining permits is described in form
5600-PM-BMP0389 “Large Noncoal Surface Mining Permit Pre-Application and Checklist,” which is
available on DEP’s website, or from the applicant’s local DMO.
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The main components of the pre-application process and DEP’s goals for pre-application review time,
where applicable, are as follows:
Applicant submits pre-application information and documents.
DMO reviews for completeness (7 days).
DMO and other Bureaus as appropriate complete the preliminary technical and field review
(15 business days/30 for bituminous underground, refuse disposal and prep plants).
DMO lead reviewer prepares a formal list of identified issues of concern.
Pre-application field meeting/conference with DMO, applicant representatives, and any other
parties of interest as appropriate at the proposed permit location (within 60 days of the receipt of
DMO prepares field meeting/conference summary letter.
If, during the preliminary review, DEP finds that the pre-application is missing significant information
necessary for DEP to provide a meaningful list of concerns, DEP may return the pre-application package
as incomplete with a description of the identified deficiencies. Significant information would include
overburden analysis, water supply replacement demonstrations, or hydrologic studies.
DEP staff (typically the geologist, engineer, and inspector) assigned to the application conduct the field
review of the site. Mapping will be field-checked for completeness and accuracy, with specific
emphasis placed on the identification of streams and wetlands, dwellings and other buildings, and
utilities. DEP staff will check E&S control locations for construction viability, and verify that all
appropriate water monitoring locations are included in the monitoring plan. In situations where pond
locations are critical (due to steep terrains or other reasons), the DMO may request staking or flagging of
the pond outslopes (i.e., areal extent) prior to the field review. Adverse weather conditions, especially
during the winter, may prevent the timely completion of the field review. If this occurs, DEP will
establish a time frame for the field review as soon as possible.
Based on the technical and field reviews, DEP will develop a list of major issues of concern which will
be provided to the applicant and consultant prior to the pre-application conference. Each DEP reviewer
who contributed to the comments should attend the conference. The intent of this conference is to make
sure that DEP comments are understood, to suggest possible solutions to the problems identified, and to
discuss how to proceed with the project.
Except for bituminous underground, refuse disposal and prep plant permits, the applicant is not required
to respond to DEP’s pre-application summary letter. DEP expects that the applicant will address the
items in the letter point by point within the submittal of the full formal application. For bituminous
underground, refuse disposal and prep plant permits, DEP should receive a response from the applicant
regarding the initial pre-application correction letter within 20 business days. DEP will send a second
pre-application review letter within 30 business days from the applicant’s response. This second letter
will include a schedule for a pre-application conference.
The pre-application process is completed at the close of the pre-application conference. DEP should
provide a summary letter within 10 business days after the joint field meeting/conference outlining the
issues, potential resolutions, and any remaining significant issues identified during this pre-application
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