Surface Mining Law and Legal Definition

Surface mining is a type of mining in which soil and rock overlying the mineral deposit (the overburden) are removed. It is used when deposits of commercially useful minerals or rock are found near the surface. Surface mining is safer than underground mining because the miners are not exposed to such potential hazards as roof falls, explosions caused by methane gas or dust ignitions, and coal-worker pneumoconiosis (black lung) caused by long-term exposure to respirable coal dust.

However surface mining operations result in disturbances of surface areas that burden and adversely affect commerce and the public welfare by destroying or diminishing the utility of land for commercial, industrial, residential, recreational, agricultural, and forestry purposes. Surface mining cause erosion and landslides, by contributes to floods, pollutes water, destroys fish and wildlife habitats, impairs natural beauty, counteracts governmental programs and efforts to conserve soil, water, and other natural resources. In US effective and reasonable regulation of surface coal mining operations is possible by the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977, which appears as 30 USCS §§ 1201.

The following is an example of a Federal Statute defining Surface Mining:

According 36 CFR 9.2 Surface mining means mining in surface excavations, including placer mining, mining in open glory-holes or mining pits, mining and removing ore from open cuts, and the removal of capping or overburden to uncover ore.