Reclamation performance bonds are posted for all permitted coal mines and exploration projects. The performance bond ensures that the Division has adequate funds to hire a third party to complete required reclamation of approved disturbance in the event the permittee is unable to do so. The amount of required reclamation performance bond is based on the actual costs to reclaim all permitted disturbance at an operation. The bond remains in place for a minimum of ten years for most mine permits, dependent on the post-mining land use. Liability for an exploration project is released when the required reclamation has been accomplished.
Coal mine permittees can request release of reclamation bonds as stages of reclamation are completed, through a three-phase process based upon specified criteria. At phase I, up to 60% of the bond may be released when the mined land has been backfilled and graded to approximate original contour and drainage control has been reestablished. Up to 85% of the bond may be released at phase II with topsoil replacement, successful establishment of vegetation that supports the post-mining land use, and documentation that the reclaimed lands do not contribute suspended solids to streamflow or runoff outside the permit area in excess of premining levels. The remaining bond may be released at phase III, characterized by termination of the liability period and successful completion of the reclamation plan. Coal permits are terminated when all requirements of the Rules and the Act have been successfully completed and all requirements for bond release have been achieved. Since inception of the Coal Program in 1981, the Division has granted full bond release at 29 permitted operations.