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Information for operators of nonmetallic mines

For the most part, operators of nonmetallic mining sites in Wisconsin deal directly with local authorities on questions of zoning, operational requirements and the development and execution of reclamation plans. There are statewide guidelines regarding reclamation plans, and the DNR is available for technical assistance on reclamation issues. The DNR also issues water and air permits for nonmetallic mining operations.

Reclamation permits

No mining may be conducted without a valid reclamation permit unless exempt from ch. NR 135, Wis. Adm. Code. New mines must apply for and receive a reclamation permit prior to beginning operations. The rules provide for such reasonable exemptions as for sites less than one acre, a pit on a farmer's land for personal use or for excavations incidental to building construction.

Other activities that are covered by other regulations and exempt from the NR 135 permit requirement include:

  • excavations for highway projects;
  • excavation sites used in support of and on the same property as landfills;
  • operations subject to the state Department of Transportation's reclamation requirements; and
  • operations in or adjacent to navigable waters, which the DNR Water Program regulates under ch. NR 340, Wis. Adm. Code.

The reclamation permit is based on the reclamation plan, which ensures all necessary steps are taken to achieve the approved post-mining land use. The reclamation permit is to be a life-of-mine permit with no need for renewal, though significant modifications may require approval.

Reclamation plans

The purpose of the reclamation plan is to achieve acceptable site reclamation to an approved, post-mining land use in compliance with state standards. The reclamation standards address environmental protection measures, including topsoil salvage and storage, surface and groundwater protection and reclamation activities that minimize acreage exposed to wind and water erosion.

Fees and financial assurance

State law requires regulatory authorities (RAs) to set and collect from mine operators' fees that reflect the reasonable and actual costs for administering their reclamation programs. Regulatory authorities also forward a portion of the fees to the DNR to cover administrative costs for the statewide nonmetallic mining reclamation program. The fees may only be assessed on unreclaimed acres at an active mine site.

Mine operators must provide a surety bond or other form of financial assurance to the RA to guarantee that the RA has the funds necessary to perform site reclamation in the event of a default. The amount of this financial assurance is based on the cost to implement the reclamation plan.

Water permits

There are regulations, requirements and limitations related to discharge of process wastewater and stormwater runoff from nonmetallic mining sites. The DNR has a combined general permit for these requirements. Chapter NR 216, Wis. Adm. Code, which authorizes a permit fee for stormwater runoff from non-metallic mining operations. If the mine is deemed to be internally drained, the annual permit fees may not be required. If the mine is in or near a waterway or wetland, you need a permit to dredge, create a pond or grade in excess of 10,000 feet.

Air emissions and permits

Mine operators also need to be aware of air emissions standards and dust suppression.

Local contacts and mine site locations