The Minerals Program is responsible for the implementation of the Colorado Mined Land Reclamation Act and the Colorado Land Reclamation Act for the Extraction of Construction Materials. The Minerals Program seeks to foster and encourage the orderly development of the state's natural resources while requiring those persons involved in extraction operations to reclaim the affected land so that it may be put to a use beneficial to the people of this state. Furthermore, the Minerals Program works towards conserving natural resources, aiding in the protection of wildlife and aquatic resources, establishing agricultural, recreational, residential, and industrial sites, and protecting and promoting the health, safety, and general welfare of the people of this state. The Minerals Program carries out its responsibilities for all permitted mineral mines and exploration operations through:
The Minerals Program issues four different types of reclamation permits based on the type of operation, characterization of the material being mined, and in one case the exclusive use of the mined material for highway or utility projects under government projects. Reclamation permits issued under the Construction Materials Act or the Hardrock Act in the Minerals Program are issued for the life of the operation. There are provisions in the two Acts for operators to enter into two five-year periods of temporary cessation, however, by the end of the second five-year period, operators must reinitiate operations or begin reclamation. Once an operator has completed a phase of mining, the operator has five years to complete reclamation for that phase.
Operators may make revisions to their approved permits at any time through the appropriate revision process. Technical Revision is a change in the permit or an application for a permit, which has only a minor effect upon the approved or proposed Reclamation Plan. Amendment is a change in the permit or an application for a permit which increases the acreage of the affected land or which has a significant effect upon the approved or proposed Reclamation Plan.
Each operator must submit to the Division an annual report and fee, which funds the Minerals Program in part. The remaining money used to run the Minerals Program comes from a General Fund appropriation of Severance Tax. The annual report must describe, in general terms, the mining and reclamation activities conducted over the preceding year.
The Minerals Program conducts inspections of each permitted mine site at least once every four years. High priority sites, such as hardrock and in-stream gravel extraction operations, may be inspected annually. Operations that use toxic or hazardous materials may be inspected monthly. The Division responds to written citizen complaints within 30 days of receipt.
Mineral mine sites are inspected to ensure compliance with the Act, Regulations, and the provisions of an operator's approved permit. Inspections focus on a variety of topics including:
- General compliance with Mining Plan
- Erosion and sediment control
- Stormwater management
- Topsoil salvage and replacement
- Processing facilities
- Acid or toxic materials
- Backfilling and grading
- Protection of the hydrologic balance
- Protection of wildlife resources
- Revegetation success
A performance and financial warranty must be posted for all permitted mineral mines and exploration operations. The performance warranty is a written promise that the operator will comply with all applicable requirements of the Hard Rock or Construction Materials Act and applicable rules and regulations of the Board. The financial warranty is determined by the Division during the permit review process and is set and maintained at a level which reflects the actual current cost of fulfilling the requirements of the Reclamation Plan. The Division may, in its discretion, review any financial warranty for adequacy at any time.
The Division may release an operator from reclamation liability when the operator demonstrates through an on-site inspection and other relevant information that the operator has met the conditions of the approved Reclamation Plan, the Rules and Regulations, and the Act. If a site is releasable, the Division will terminate the approved permit and return the reclamation bond to the financial warrantor. Once a site is released, the Division no longer has jurisdiction over the site.
In the Minerals Program, only the Mined Land Reclamation Board (MLRB) may find an operator in violation of the Act, Regulations, or the provisions of an operator's approved permit. The Minerals Program, upon determining an operator is in violation, will send notice that the Division has "Reason to Believe" that the operator may be in violation and schedule the matter for a Formal Board Hearing before the MLRB. At the Formal Board Hearing, the MLRB may find a violation, and revoke or suspend the permit and forfeit the reclamation bond.