Office of Surface Mining Law and Legal Definition

The Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement or the Office of Surface Mining is a unit of the U.S. Department of the Interior. Its name is often abbreviated as OSM. The OSM was established in 1977 when Congress enacted the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act. The OSM is headquartered at Washington DC. It has three regional offices: the Appalachian, Mid-Continent, and Western regional offices. The regional offices are comprised of Area and Fields offices.

OSM is charged with the responsibility of establishing a program to protect the U.S. society and the environment from the adverse effects of surface coal mining operations, under which OSM is charged with balancing the nation’s need for continued domestic coal production with protection of the environment.

Three main functions of the agency include:

Regulating active mines.

Reclaiming lands damaged by surface mining and abandoned mines.

Providing resources for technical assistance, training, and technology development.

OSM works closely with State, Indian Tribes, local groups, the coal industry and communities to assure that citizens and the environment are protected during coal mining and that the land is restored to beneficial use when mining is finished. OSM and its partners are also responsible for reclaiming and restoring lands and water degraded by mining operations before 1977.

Initially, OSM directly enforced mining laws and arranged cleanup of abandoned mine lands. Today, most coal States have developed their own programs to do those jobs themselves, as Congress envisioned. Therefore, OSM focuses on overseeing the State programs and developing new tools to help the States and Tribes get the job done.

This federal agency is also responsible for implementing and enforcing the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977 (SMCRA), which attached a per-ton fee to all extracted coal in order to fund an interest-accruing trust to be used for reclamation of abandoned mine lands.