Chapter 7.70 of Inyo County Code
Please read the disclaimer.
SURFACE MINING AND LAND RECLAMATION
A copy of the entire Surface
Mining and Reclamation (SMARA) Act of 1975 [184KB] may be downloaded in Adobe PDF format by
following this link.
7.70.005 Purpose and Intent
It is the purpose and intent of this chapter to
implement section 2710 et. seq. of the California Public Resources Code
and to establish an effective and comprehensive surface mining and reclamation
policy including regulation of mining operations so as to assure that:
A. Adverse environmental effects are prevented or minimized and that
mined lands are reclaimed to a usable condition which is readily adapted
for alternative land use.
B. The production and conservation of minerals are encouraged, while
giving consideration to values relating to recreation, watershed, wildlife,
range and forage, and aesthetic enjoyment.
C. Residual hazards to public health and safety are eliminated.
For the purposes of this Chapter the following definitions
A. "Area of regional significance" means an area designated
by the State Mining and Geology Board, pursuant to Public Resources Code
Section 2790, which is known to contain a deposit of minerals, the extraction
of which is judged to be of prime importance in meeting future needs for
minerals in a particular region of the state within which the minerals
are located and which, if prematurely developed for alternate incompatible
land uses, could result in the permanent loss of minerals that are of more
than local significance.
B. "Area of statewide significance" means an area designated
by the State Mining and Geology Board, pursuant to Public Resources Code
Section 2790, which is known to contain a deposit of minerals, the extraction
of which is judged to be of prime importance in meeting future needs for
minerals in the state and which, if prematurely developed for alternate
incompatible land uses, could result in the permanent loss of minerals
that are of more than local or regional significance.
C. "Budget set aside" means a financial assurance mechanism,
meeting the requirements of Section 3806.2 of California Code of Regulations
by which a government entity proposes to make specific identified monies
within the entity's budget available to perform reclamation pursuant to
the approved reclamation plan.
D. "Exploration or prospecting" means that search for
minerals by geological, geophysical, geochemical and other techniques,
including, but not limited to, sampling, assaying, drilling, or any surface
or underground works needed to determine the type, quality, or quantity
of minerals present.
E. "Financial assurance amount" means that amount of money
necessary to conduct and complete reclamation on the mined lands in accordance
with the approved reclamation plan, plus a reasonable estimate of the administrative
costs and expenses which would be incurred by the lead agency or the Department
of Conservation, the total which shall be calculated in accordance with
Section 3804 California Code of Regulations, and shall constitute an obligation
to pay by the operator.
F. "Financial assurance" means a instrument, fund or other
form of Financial assurance as provided in Section 2773.1(a) and (e) of
the Public Resources Code and Article 11 of the California Code of Regulations.
G. "Government mine" means any surface mine owned and
operated by federal, state or local governmental entity.
H. "Idle" means to curtail for a period of one year or more surface
mining operations by more than 90 percent of the operation's previous maximum
annual mineral production, with the intent to resume those surface mining
operations at a future date.
I. " Interim management plan" is the plan which the operator
of an idle mine shall submit and gain approval for, in order to assure
that the site shall be maintained in compliance with the approved reclamation
plan, use permit, and applicable conditions, until the mine operation is
resumed or the mine is fully reclaimed in accordance with the approved
J. "Mined lands" includes the surface, subsurface, and
groundwater of an area in which surface mining operations will be, are
being, or have been conducted, including private ways and roads appurtenant
to any such area, land excavations, workings, mining waste, and areas in
which structures, facilities, equipment, machines, tools, or other materials
or property which result from, or are used in, surface mining operations
K. "Minerals" mean any naturally occurring chemical element
or compound, or groups of elements and compounds, formed from inorganic
processes and organic substances, including, but not limited to, coal,
peat, and bituminous rock, but excluding geothermal resources, water, natural
gas, and petroleum.
L. "Mining waste" includes the residual of soil, rock,
mineral, liquid, vegetation, equipment, machines, tools, or other materials
or property directly resulting from, or displaced by, surface mining operations,
excluding stockpiles as defined in subsection T.
M. "Operator" means any person who is engaged in surface
mining operations himself, or who contracts with others to conduct operations
on his behalf, except a person who is engaged in surface mining operations
as an employee with wages as his sole compensation.
N. "Overburden" means soil, rock, or other materials that
lie above a natural mineral deposit or in between deposits, before or after
their removal by surface mining operations.
O. "Person" includes any individual, firm, association,
corporation, organization, or partnership, or any city, county, district,
or the state or any department or agency thereof.
P. "Pledge of revenue" means a financial assurance mechanism
meeting the requirements of Section 3806.1 of the California Code of Regulations
by which a governmental entity proposes to make specific, identified future
revenue available to perform reclamation pursuant to the approved reclamation
Q. "Reclamation" means the combined process of land treatment
that minimizes water degradation, air pollution, damage to aquatic or wildlife
habitat, flooding, erosion, or other adverse effects from mining operations.
including adverse surface effects incidental to underground mines, so that
mined lands are reclaimed to a usable conditions which is readily adaptable
for alternate land uses and create no danger to public health or safety.
The process may extend to affected lands surrounding mined lands, and may
require backfilling, grading, resoiling, revegetation, soil compaction,
stabilization, or other measures.
R. "Reclamation plan" means the plan required by the Surface
mining and Reclamation Act of 1975, and meeting all the requirements of
Section 2772 of the Public Resources Code, administrative guidelines and
regulations adopted pursuant thereto, and ordinances of Inyo County adopted
in accordance therewith.
S. "State geologist" means the individual holding office
created by Section 677, Article 3, Chapter 2 of Division 1 of the Public
T. "Stockpile" means a volume of stored mined material
which is residual or secondary material extracted during a surface mining
operation and which has a demonstrated future economic value sufficient
to warrant its protection and preservation.
U. "Surface mining operations" means all, or part of,
the process involved in the mining of minerals on mined lands by removing
overburden and mining directly from the mineral deposits, open-pit mining
of minerals naturally exposed, mining by auger methods, dredging, and quarrying,
or surface work incident to an underground mine. Surface mining operations
include, but are not limited to:
1. In place distillation, retorting or leaching.
2. The producing and disposal of mining wastes.
3. Prospecting and exploratory activities.
4. Borrow pitting, streambed skimming, segregation and stockpiling
of mined materials (and recovery of same).
A. The provisions of this chapter shall apply to all the unincorporated
areas of Inyo County.
B. The provisions of this chapter are not applicable to:
1. Excavation or grading for farming, onsite construction, or restoration
of land following a flood or natural disaster.
2. Reclamation of lands mined prior to January 1, 1976, subject to
exceptions set forth in this chapter.
3. Those underground operations with tailings or waste dumps in total
amounts of less than one thousand cubic yards not exceeding one acre in
extent at any one site of underground access opening, providing such openings
4. Surface mining operations that are required by federal law in order
to protect a mining claim, if those operation are conducted solely for
5. Prospecting for, or the extraction of, minerals for commercial purpose
and the removal of overburden in total amounts of less than one thousand
cubic yards in any one location of one acre or less.
7.70.020 Reclamation Plan Requirements.
A. Any person who proposes to engage in a mining activity shall, prior
to the commencement of the operations, obtain approval of a permit to mine,
a reclamation plan, and financial assurances. Approval shall be obtained
from the Planning Commission for a conditional use permit to mine and reclamation
plan in accordance with the provisions set forth in this chapter, Title
18 of the Inyo County Code, and as further provided in Section 2772 of
the Public Resources Code. Permits to mine on public and Indian lands shall
be obtained from the agency or tribal council administering these lands
prior to consideration of approval of a reclamation plan and financial
assurance by the Planning Commission.
B. A person who has obtained a vested right to conduct surface mining
operations prior to January 1, 1976, shall submit to the County Planning
Department a reclamation plan for operations to be conducted after January
C. The reclamation plan shall be applicable to a specific piece of property
or properties, shall be based upon the character of the surrounding area
and such characteristics of the property as type of overburden, soil stability,
topography, geology, climate, stream characteristics, and principal mineral
commodities, and shall establish site-specific criteria for evaluating
compliance with the approved reclamation plan, including topography, revegetation,
and sediment and erosion control.
D. Reclamation plans issued pursuant to this chapter shall run with
the land affected thereby and shall be binding on all successors, heirs,
and assigns of the permittee.
E. Applicants having a surface mining operation which involves separate,
noncontiguous parcels of land may file one reclamation plan for the entire
operation covering each parcel of land, provided that the type of operation
is the same on each parcel of land and each parcel of land is identified
in the reclamation plan.
All applications for a reclamation plan for any
mining operation shall be made on forms provided by the County Planning
Department. The application shall be filed in accordance with this chapter
and procedures established by the Planning Commission.
A. The fees for a Reclamation Plan, as established by Section 3.60.040
of Chapter 3.60 of the Inyo County Code, shall be paid to the Planning
Department at the time of filing of the reclamation plan.
B. The fees for an amendment to reclamation plans, and interim management
plans required by this chapter shall be the amount specified in Section
3.60.040 of Chapter 3.60 of the Inyo County Code.
C. A fee shall be paid the County for annual inspections of a surface
mine as outlined in Section 2274 of the Public Resources Code. The fee
for mine inspections shall be specified in Section 3.60.040 of the Inyo
Pursuant to section 2774(c) of the Public Resources
Code all reclamation plans, financial assurances, and amendments thereto
shall be sent to the Director of the Department of Conservation for a 45
day review prior to formal County approval.
7.70.040 Financial Assurances.
In order to ensure that reclamation will proceed
in accordance with the approved Reclamation Plan, the County shall require
as a condition of approval financial assurances:
A. Financial assurances may take the form of surety bonds, irrevocable
letters of credit, trust funds or other mechanisms adopted by the State
Mine and Geology Board through the regulatory process.
B. Public Agencies may satisfy financial assurance requirements by using
"Pledges of Revenue" or "Budget Set Aside" as acceptable financial assurances
C. The financial assurances shall remain in effect for the duration
of the surface mining operation and any additional period until reclamation
D. Financial assurances shall be calculated using the Reclamation Cost
Estimate Summary Sheet of the Mine Reclamation Application.
E. The amount of financial assurances required of a surface mining operation
for any one year shall be adjusted annually to account for new lands disturbed
by surface mining operations, inflation, and reclamation of lands accomplished
in accordance with the approved reclamation plan.
F. The financial assurances shall be made payable to Inyo County, the
Department of Conservation, and any other affected public agency. However,
if a surface mining operation has received approval of its financial assurances
from a public agency other than the County, the County shall deem those
financial assurances adequate for purposes of this section, or shall credit
them toward fulfillment of the financial assurances required by this section,
if they are made payable to the public agency, the County, and the Department
of Conservation and otherwise meet the requirements of Section 2773.1 of
the Public Resources Code.
G. If a mining operation is sold or ownership is transferred to another
person, the existing financial assurances shall remain in force and shall
not be released by the County until new financial assurances are secured
from the new owner and have been approved by the County.
H. The release of financial assurances shall be with the concurrence
of all agencies named on the financial assurance. The criteria for release
of financial assurances, or part of the financial assurances, shall be
made part of the Reclamation Plan. In no case shall the financial assurance
be released until reclamation has been completed.
J. The amount of financial assurances shall be reviewed and adjusted,
if required, pursuant to section 7.70.055(b) of this chapter.
7.70.045 Public Records.
Reclamation plans, reports, applications and other
documents submitted pursuant to this chapter are public records unless
it can be demonstrated to the satisfaction of the County that the release
of such information, or any part thereof, would reveal production, reserves,
or rate of depletion entitled to protection as proprietary information.
The County shall identify such proprietary information as a separate part
of each application. A copy of all permits, reclamation plans, reports,
applications and other documents submitted pursuant to this chapter, including
proprietary information, shall be furnished to the State Geologist by the
County on request. Proprietary Information shall be made available to persons
other than the State Geologist only when authorized by the mine operator
and by the mine owner in accordance with Section 2778 of the Public Resources
Code, or otherwise required by law.
Upon completion of the environmental review procedure,
and filing of all documents as required by the County Planning Department,
a public hearing will be scheduled for Planning Commission consideration
of the reclamation plan for the proposed or existing surface mine.
7.70.055 Periodic Review and Inspections.
A. The County shall conduct an inspection of each surface mining operation
within six months of receipt by the County of the surface mining operations
annual report submitted pursuant to Section 2207 of the Public Resources
Code. In no event shall the County inspect a surface mining operation less
than once per year. The operator shall be solely responsible for reasonable
cost of the inspection.
B. The required financial assurances shall be reviewed annually by the
County and be part of the annual inspection required by Section 2207 of
the Public Resources Code. Financial assurances shall be adjusted to account
for new lands disturbed by surface mining operations, inflation, reclamation
of lands accomplished in accordance with the approved reclamation plan,
or other factors related to the cost of reclamation which have changed
since the previous review.
C. At the time of the annual inspection, the mine operator shall make
available to the county an updated reclamation cost estimate prepared by
the operator using the guidelines and format established in the Reclamation
Cost Estimate Summary Sheet of the Mine Reclamation Application.
D. The person in charge of the surface mining operation shall make the
surface mining operation open and available for such inspection during
regular County business hours or at such other times as may be mutually
agreed upon by him and the Planning Department. The provisions of this
subsection shall be deemed to be a condition of the reclamation plan.
E. The Planning Department shall make a report of the results of the
inspection. This report shall be filed with the Director, Department of
Conservation and the operator no later than 30 days after the inspection
7.70.060 Idle Mine - Interim Management Plans.
Within ninety (90) days of a surface mining operation
becoming idle, the operator shall submit an Interim Management Plan. The
Interim Management Plan shall be developed in accordance with section 2770
(h) of the Public Resources Code. Interim Management Plans shall be sent
to the Director of Conservation for review in the same manner as amendments
to Reclamation Plans. Financial Assurances as required by Section 2770(h)(3)
of the Public Resources Code shall remain in effect during the period that
the surface mining operation is idle.
7.70.065 Amendments To Plan.
Amendments to an approved reclamation plan may be
submitted detailing proposed changes from the original plan. Substantial
deviations from the original plan shall not be undertaken until such amendment
has been filed and approved, in the same manner as established herein for
original application. The foregoing notwithstanding, in emergency situations
where irreversible physical damage to the environment may occur, an operator
may take such action which is necessary to prevent such damage and shall
forthwith report the taking of the action to the Planning Department. Application
for an amendment are subject to the fee in accordance with Section 3.060.040
of the Inyo County Code.
A. Where it appears to the Planning Department that a surface mining
operation is in violation of any condition of an approved reclamation plan
or applicable statute, regulation, or ordinance, the Planning Department
shall serve formal notice to the Operator stating the nature of the violation
and the specified time frame to correct the violation before an order is
B. The time within which the permittee must commence correction of the
violation shall be sooner than sixty (60) days from the notice of violation.
C. An order shall be issued if the Operator fails to comply with the
notice within the specified time limit. Not sooner than 30 days after the
date of the order, a hearing shall be held by the Planning Director or
his designee, for which at least ten days' written notice has been given
to the operator. The order shall not take affect
until the Operator has been provided the hearing. The date of issuance
of the order is the date of receipt by the operator.
D. Failure to comply with the order shall be subject to an order setting
administrative penalties. Penalties shall be assessed from date of original
E. In determining the amount of administrative penalty, the County shall
take into consideration the nature, circumstances, extent, and gravity
of the violation or violations, any prior history of violations, the degree
of culpability, economic savings, if any, resulting from the violation,
and any other matters justice may require.
F. Orders setting administrative penalties shall become effective upon
issuance thereof and payment shall be made to the Planning Department,
unless the operator files an appeal with the Board of Supervisors within
30 days. The Board shall notify the operator by personal service or certified
mail whether it will review the order setting administrative penalties.
If after hearing, the Board affirms the order, the operator shall pay the
administrative penalties set by the Board's order within 30 days of the
service of that order.
G. The provisions of this chapter shall be enforced by the Planning
Director or his designated appointee.
H. Not withstanding the foregoing, a violation of this chapter may be
enforced by the County by the use of any legal or equitable remedy the
County may have.
7.70.075 Application Fees.
No application shall be accepted unless it is in
full compliance with all requirements of this chapter, and accompanied
by the fee, specified in section 3.60.040 of Chapter 3.60 of the Inyo County
Code. No part of any required fee shall be returnable, and every such fee
shall be deposited with the County Treasurer. The amount of filing fee
required shall be as set forth in Chapter 3.60 of the Inyo County Code.
7.70.080 Appeal Procedures.
A. An appeal may be taken to the Inyo County planning commission as a
result of a planning department decision pursuant to this chapter within
fifteen calendar days after a written record on the decision is issued by the
planning department. An appeal may be taken to the Inyo County board of
supervisors as a result of a planning commission decision within fifteen
calendar days on any application filed pursuant to this chapter. Filing of an
appeal shall stay all proceedings until the matter being appealed is resolved.
B. The appeal may be made by any person aggrieved, or by any public officer,
board or agency affected, by filing an appeal with the planning commission
secretary in the case of the planning department decision, or with the clerk of
the board of supervisors in the case of an appeal of a planning commission
decision. Each appeal shall consist of a written notice specifying the grounds
for the appeal and shall be accompanied by a nonrefundable fee as set forth in
the Inyo County schedule of fees.
C. Any member of the board of supervisors may within the same period call for
review of any such action by notice to the clerk of the board of supervisors and
such notice shall have the same effect as an appeal, but shall require no fee. (Ord.
959 § 4, 1995.).