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DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION
Bureau of Mining Programs
Processing Completion Reports for Coal Mining Operations
Upon publication of notice as final in the
Surface Mining Conservation and Reclamation Act (52 P.S. §§ 1396.1
); 25 Pa. Code §§ 86.170 - 86.175
The District Mining Offices will process requests for bond release in an
expeditious manner. Bonds will be released only upon satisfactory
attainment of the requirements for reclamation.
The purpose of this document is to establish guidelines for processing
completion reports on coal mining sites.
This guidance applies to all coal mining operations, including remining
activities conducted under Chapter 87, Subchapter F and Chapter 88,
Subchapter G, Chapter 90, Subchapter F.
The policies and procedures outlined in this guidance document are
intended to supplement existing requirements. Nothing in the policies or
procedures will 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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On completion of a stage of reclamation for a coal mining operation, the operator or any other person
having an interest in the bond, including DEP, may file a Completion Report requesting a bond release.
Completion Reports may be filed only when the appropriate stage of reclamation has been completed.
A Completion Report may be filed for either a designated portion or all of the permit area. Upon receipt
of a Completion Report, DEP will ensure that reclamation has been completed in accordance with the
approved reclamation plan, permit conditions and applicable laws and regulations.
The operator or any other person having an interest in the bond (applicant) starts the
process by submitting the Completion Report to the appropriate District Mining Office
(DMO) (25 Pa. Code § 86.171(a)). The applicant submits a completion report package,
one original and two copies, including maps outlining the bond release area. The map
requirement may be waived by the receiving DMO if the entire bonded increment or coal
mining permit is covered by the same completion report, or if the area is exactly the same
as the area in a previous completion report.
The applicant should provide proof of current notification to surface owners and
adjoining property owners, local governments, planning agencies, and sewer and water
authorities of its intent to seek release of its bond with each completion report package
(25 Pa. Code § 86.171(a)(2))
At the time of filing the application for release, the applicant should provide
documentation that he or she has initiated public notice of the request for bond release in
a local newspaper of general circulation according to the requirements of 25 Pa. Code
§ 86.171(b) and information regarding when the notice will appear. This documentation
should include a draft copy of the public notice.
To demonstrate that the soil and vegetation standards for Stage 2 reclamation in 25 Pa.
Code § 86.174(b) have been met, the applicant shall submit a Planting and Soil Test
Report Form (DEP 5600-FM-BMP0049) with the request for Stage 2 bond release.
If the completion report area includes prime farmland, crop yields must be
submitted for Stage 2 approval if crops were grown. If crops were not grown, a
soil survey may be submitted (25 Pa. Code §§ 86.174(b)(3), 87.181(c), 88.129(f),
88.217(f), 88.330(f), 89.122(b)(8) and 89.134(c)).
For permits where the approved post-mining land use is for cropland, pastureland,
or land occasionally cut for hay, the applicant needs to submit a Planting and Soil
Test Report Form with two years of crop yields for Stage 2 bond release (25 Pa.
Code §§ 87.155(a)(3)), 88.129(e), 88.217(e), 88.330(e), and 89.86(e)).
The DMO must examine the application for completeness, log it, and distribute it for
office, technical, and field review (See Appendix A: “Completeness Review and
Numbering”). If the application is submitted during times of the year when revegetation
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cannot be evaluated, the applicant will be notified that the application is being held until
the weather permits (25 Pa. Code § 86.171(d)). Copies of applications involving
bituminous underground mines, refuse disposal, or coal preparation facilities will be
forwarded by the DMO to the California District Mining Office. Copies including
similar anthracite facilities will be handled by the Pottsville District Mining Office. Staff
from either California (Bituminous) or Pottsville (Anthracite) will, within 30 days of
receipt, complete the hydrogeologic review portion of the application.
The Field Inspector will review the permit file (including the operator’s self-monitoring
data) to determine whether a pattern of violations exists and to determine if a pollution
trend may be occurring. Inspectors collect water samples of discharges, seeps and pit
water as part of routine mine inspections. Because of this practice, it may not be
necessary to take water samples solely for evaluating the bond release request, as long as
the appropriate points have been sampled by DMO staff during the previous 90 days.
Bond release requests for underground mines should include a copy of the mine seal sign
off from the Bureau of Mine Safety and should identify the DMO that issued the permit
If the applicant proposes to leave permanent structures on-site, the DMO staff should
consider the additional items described in Appendix B.
The DMO will offer the affected property owners, agent or lessee, and permittee to
accompany a DEP representative on a field review of the completion report area.
(25 Pa. Code § 86.171(d)). If anyone objects to a request for bond release, the DMO may
offer the objecting party an opportunity to accompany a DEP representative on a field
review of the completion report area.
The DMO field review of the completion report area will be documented using the
Reclamation Status Report form. Recommendations for action on the Completion Report
will be made by the DMO reviewer.
Permits that were issued with special authorization under 25 Pa. Code, Chapter 87,
Subchapter F; Chapter 88, Subchapter G; Chapter 90, Subchapter F for pre-existing
discharges should be reviewed by a hydrogeologist prior to approving the bond release.
The review should determine if the post-mining water quality exceeds any of the triggers
contained in the permit. DEP’s guidance on Monitoring, Compliance and Bond Release
for Subchapter F and G Permits (563-2504-612), available on DEP’s website, outlines the
procedures for bond release on Subchapter F and G permits.
The DMO will hold informal conferences if requested pursuant to 25 Pa. Code
The applicant may make minor revisions to the site and/or application as necessary. If no
informal conference has been held, revisions should only be allowed if DEP can satisfy
the requirement to make a decision to release or not to release the bond within the
60 days of the date of filing of the application (25 Pa. Code § 86.171(f)(2)). If an
informal conference has been held, revisions should only be allowed if DEP can satisfy
the requirement to make a decision to release or not to release the bond within 30 days
after conclusion of the conference (25 Pa. Code § 86.171(f)(3).
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The regulations establish the amount of bond that can be released based on the schedule
for bond release at 25 Pa. Code § 86.175. According to the schedule, Stage 1 bond
release may not exceed 60% of the total bond amount on the permit area. DEP will retain
an amount of bond sufficient to cover the cost of reestablishing vegetation and
reconstructing drainage structures if completed by a third party at Stage 2 bond release.
DEP will evaluate if sufficient bond remains after the bond release using the current bond
rate guidelines prior to approving the bond release.
DEP will issue a final determination within the 60 days of the date of the filing of the
application if no informal conference has been held (25 Pa. Code § 86.171(f)(2)). If an
informal conference was held, DEP will issue a final determination within 30 days after
the conclusion of the informal conference. The final determination is considered to be
made when the DMO notifies the commentators; local municipalities; the Division of
Contracts, Procurement and Bonding; the permittee; and the applicant (if different than
permittee) of its decision (25 Pa. Code § 86.171(f)(2)-(3)).
Water Loss Coverage Bonds
Water Loss Coverage Bonds posted in lieu of providing a rider on the operator’s insurance
policy to cover the degradation, loss or diminution of public and private water supplies are not
considered Reclamation Bonds. DEP may release this bond in its entirety as long as a
hydrogeologic review indicates no threat of contamination or diminution to public or private
water supplies exist. Insurance Requirements and Water Supply Replacement Assurance
(562-2500-702), available on DEP’s website, states these bonds should not be released until after
the Stage 2 reclamation bond release is approved.
Requests for release of mine subsidence bonds are processed by the California DMO
(Bituminous) or the Pottsville DMO (Anthracite) as separate actions.
Bore Hole, Demolition, and Mine Seal Bonds
For underground mines, the California and Pottsville DMOs may recommend release of up to
100% of the bond amounts held for bore holes, structure demolition, and mine seals upon
satisfactory completion of the work. Bonds on hydraulic seals may be released after the
applicant has documented that the seal is functioning as required under the Mine Closure Plan
(25 Pa. Code § 89.71(3)).
Water Supply Operation and Maintenance Bonds
DEP’s guidance on Increased Operation and Maintenance Costs of Replacement Water Supplies
(562-4000-102), available on DEP’s website, describes the circumstances and procedures to
follow to release the Water Supply Operation and Maintenance bonds. If the operator reaches a
settlement with the affected water supply owner(s), the bonds may be released following the
procedures in the guidance document.
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Civil Penalty Check
The last step in the completion report process is to check that the permittee does not have any
unpaid civil penalties. If the permittee has unpaid civil penalties and has collateral bonds on the
site, the DMO will notify the permittee that the civil penalty must be paid within 60 days or DEP
will deny the bond release.
Appendix A Completeness Review and Numbering
Appendix B Considerations when the applicant proposes to leave permanent structures on-site.
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Completeness Review and Numbering
Completeness - Each completion report for bond release will contain the original and two copies
of the following:
Completion Report Form properly completed and signed.
Maps, if appropriate, showing area to be released.
Proposed public notice.
Proof of publication. This must be submitted within 60 days of filing the application.
Distribution and review of the completion report is to begin upon receipt of the completion
report even if proof of publication has not been included.
Logging/Numbering - Each completion report will be assigned an application number using the
following six-digit numbering scheme:
Sequential number received for that year
1 =New Stanton
2 = Knox
3 = Cambria
4 = Moshannon
5 = Pottsville
6 = California
Completion Report distribution - Each Completion Report will be distributed as follows:
DMO staff receives original completion report, proposed public notice and maps.
DMO staff sends a copy of the completion report and maps to appropriate field staff.
For bituminous underground permits, the DMO sends a copy of the completion report
and maps to the California DMO for their review and recommendation.
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Considerations When the Applicant Proposes to Leave
Permanent Structures On-Site
Occasionally a permittee may submit a request to leave structures, such as sediment controls,
impoundments, ponds, or buildings on a mine site. When these requests are made after permit issuance,
additional items must be considered. Slight changes in the recontouring may have dramatic effects on a
basin’s safety. The following should be considered when processing the permittee’s request:
Does it have a current/valid certification?
Is the basin stable?
Does an impoundment have a proper emergency spillway?
Does an impoundment have a proper principal spillway?
Is the rock lining and riprap appropriate?
Should material be added to the breast of the dam in order to increase the outslope of the
dam breast, thereby increasing the safety factor?
Has the landowner indicated in writing that the basin should be left, and that he or she
What is the quality of the water in the basin?
Does the basin outflow go to a natural drainage way?
Is an engineer’s recertification of the basin construction and verification of the volume of
the drainage area necessary?
What is downstream - playgrounds, homes, schools?
Is the basin compatible with the postmining land use?
Will the basin hold the required amount of water?
Does it need a clay lining?
Does the principal spillway height need to be adjusted?
Is the basin designed to be dewatering?
If the basin is to remain dry (shooting range, play field with sides of basin becoming
natural bleachers, etc.), has the necessary recontouring been done to keep the area dry?
Has anything changed since permit issuance that results in a permit now being required
under 25 Pa. Code Chapter 105?
Was the original plan suitable for a permanent basin?
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Has dredging the fines from the sediment basin enlarged the original structure?
What is the new purpose of the basin?
Is the amount and type of vegetation on the areas surrounding the basin and on the breast
appropriate? (no trees on breast)
Has the landowner indicated in writing that the road may be left permanently, and that he
or she accepts responsibility?
Are there off-site effects from this road?
Is the presence of a building compatible with the post-mining land use?
Has the landowner agreed in writing that the building may be left permanently?
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