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Indiana Department of Natural Resources

Reclamation > Mine Regulation > Technical Services Technical Services

The Technical Services Section provides technical assistance to all other Division sections but primary work effort is directed at active mines. Their main responsibility is reviewing the technical aspects of permit applications. Staff provide field advice on technical mining issues and frequently meet with coal operators or landowners adjacent to mining operations.

While the reclamation specialist is responsible for all aspects of the mine permit, including inspection and enforcement, the technical specialists are relied upon to determine the details of mining and reclamation process including:  geology, hydrological impacts, mine drainage control, mine engineering, soil and re-vegetation, fish and wildlife habitat conditions, underground mine subsidence, and archaeological significance.  Other Department of Natural Resource divisions also contribute technical expertise to permit reviews and coordination with other federal laws.

Technical services staff conduct the geographical information system mapping of the permitted sites, essential for monitoring the progress of the mine and the stages of bond release.   Other personnel in the section provide support for the submission of bond and bond release requirements.

Find out more about specific technical responsibilities necessary to ensure compliance to mining requirements.

Permit Reviews

The Permit Coordinator receives permit applications for new operations as well as applications for changes to, or renewal of existing permits and performs the initial completeness reviews. A completeness review is conducted to make sure all required information has been received.  Permit reviews are tracked to ensure that all actions are accomplished completely and in a timely manner. Public notices and the receipt of public input through mail, personal contact and public meetings regarding pending permit decisions are handled through this position.

Hydrological Studies

Coal mining sites are reviewed before activities may begin, during, and, after active extraction is complete. Before construction may begin, staff study the comprehensive impact of the mine on local and regional water resources. During operations, monitoring wells are used to gauge water quality as well as water quantity, or availability. They investigate water well concerns, drainage questions and other surface or groundwater issues. Once mining is complete, staff evaluate restored areas for replacement of pre-mining water capacity and protection of water quality.

Performance Bonds and Bond Release

Before any activity may occur on a mine site, the operator must post a performance bond with the Division. The bond is held until the operator completely restores any disturbed areas to the post-mining conditions specified in the permit. The bond coordinator and the reclamation specialist assigned to the permit calculate bond rates, conduct bond inspections, and recommend bond release or denial. The bond coordinator ensures that landowners and other affected parties are aware of bond conditions, and coordinates public comments on bond issues. The records manager maintains all the financial bond records and handles the documents submitted by the bonding companies.

Phase I (60% of the bond rate/acre)

The first phase is released when final grading of the area is complete, and topsoil and subsoil have been replaced and stabilized. The area must be graded to approximate original contour standards, and all drainage control features (terraces, dry dams, etc.) are in place and functioning properly. Water impoundments should be constructed to design and at pool stage.

Phase II (25% of the bond rate/acre)

The second phase is released when the area has been revegetated to the approved post-mining land use. Prime farmland must have one proof of productivity associated with it. Productivity can be proven with corn, wheat, soybeans or mixed hay. Specialty crops are acceptable on a case by case basis. Water impoundments must be maintaining pool stage. Forest and wildlife areas must be planted with the approved species of trees and/or shrubs but no stem counts are required at this time. A general rule of thumb is that at least 50% of the species are alive and healthy.

Phase III (15% of the bond rate/acre)

Phase III (final release) is released a minimum of five years after the area has been initially seeded, and two additional proof of productivities have been submitted for prime farmland areas. One of the crops must be soybeans or corn. Non-prime cropland areas and pastureland areas must have two proofs of productivity. A 90% ground cover of grasses and legumes must also be present on pastureland areas. At least 80% of the trees and/or shrubs must have been in place for three years on forest and wildlife areas.

Geological Surveys

Staff geologists review the naturally occurring ground conditions of the area proposed to be mined. This review looks at the geological formations, the potential for acid or toxic forming materials and other deposits which, if exposed, could present an environmental concern. If the potential exists for undesirable impacts, the operator must show in the permit application, how these materials and their impacts will be handled. Staff geologists also review applications requesting disposal of coal combustion materials as part of the reclamation process.

Explosives

The Blasting Section oversees the use of explosives on coal mines. They review applications for blasting designs and monitor use of explosives for compliance with the law and protection of the public and private property. A structural engineer is available to inspect homes if blasting related damage is suspected. Staff developed and administer a Blaster Certification course. Anyone handling explosives at Indiana coalmines must be properly trained and certified by division personnel.

Cultural Resources

In cooperation with the Division of Historic Preservation and Archaeology, a full time staff archaeologist oversees the protection of cultural and historic resources that might be affected by coal mining in Indiana. This includes public parks, cemeteries, historic lands on, or eligible to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and other State or federal historic sites or structures.

Wildlife Habitat

A joint partnership with the Division of Fish and Wildlife, a wildlife biologist provides guidance for mitigation of impacts to wildlife during and after mining. This position oversees compliance with the federal Endangered Species Act and other applicable state or federal protective measures. Final reclamation suggestions might include wetlands and streams, food, cover, and other features for the safety and preservation of wildlife.

Soil Protection and Replacement

A soils scientist reviews each permit application to ensure that proper steps are taken to support successful restoration of the ground once mining is complete. This includes the removal and temporary storage of topsoil and sub-soils, the method of soil replacement, proper soil depths and suitable re-vegetation for the approved post-mining land uses.