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e-CFR data is current as of January 14, 2021

Title 30Chapter VIISubchapter K → Part 823

Title 30: Mineral Resources


§823.1   Scope and purpose.
§823.4   Responsibilities.
§823.11   Applicability.
§823.12   Soil removal and stockpiling.
§823.14   Soil replacement.
§823.15   Revegetation and restoration of soil productivity.

Authority: Pub. L. 95-87, 30 U.S.C. 1201 et seq.; Pub. L. 100-34.

Source: 48 FR 21463, May 12, 1983, unless otherwise noted.

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§823.1   Scope and purpose.

This part sets forth special environmental protection performance, reclamation, and design standards for surface coal mining and reclamation operations on prime farmland.

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§823.4   Responsibilities.

(a) The U.S. Soil Conservation Service within each State shall establish specifications for prime farmland soil removal, storage, replacement, and reconstruction.

(b) The regulatory authority within each State shall use the soil-reconstruction specifications of paragraph (a) of this section to carry out its responsibilities under §785.17 and subchapter J of this chapter.

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§823.11   Applicability.

The requirements of this part shall not apply to—

(a) Coal preparation plants, support facilities, and roads of surface and underground mines that are actively used over extended periods of time and where such uses affect a minimal amount of land. Such uses shall meet the requirements of part 816 of this chapter for surface mining activities and of part 817 of this chapter for underground mining activities;

(b) Disposal areas containing coal mine waste resulting from underground mines that is not technologically and economically feasible to store in underground mines or on non-prime farmland. The operator shall minimize the area of prime farmland used for such purposes.

(c) Prime farmland that has been excluded in accordance with §785.17(a) of this chapter.

[48 FR 21463, May 12, 1983, as amended at 53 FR 40839, Oct. 18, 1988]

Effective Date Note: At 50 FR 7278, Feb. 21, 1985, §823.11, paragraph (a) was suspended “insofar as it excludes from the requirements of part 823 those coal preparation plants, support facilities, and roads that are surface mining activities”.

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§823.12   Soil removal and stockpiling.

(a) Prime farmland soils shall be removed from the areas to be disturbed before drilling, blasting, or mining.

(b) The minimum depth of soil and soil materials to be removed and stored for use in the reconstruction of prime farmland shall be sufficient to meet the requirements of §823.14(b).

(c) Soil removal and stockpiling operations on prime farmland shall be conducted to—

(1) Separately remove the topsoil, or remove other suitable soil materials where such other soil materials will create a final soil having a greater productive capacity than that which exist prior to mining. If not utilized immediately, this material shall be placed in stockpiles separate from the spoil and all other excavated materials; and

(2) Separately remove the B or C soil horizon or other suitable soil material to provide the thickness of suitable soil required by §823.14(b), except as approved by the regulatory authority where the B or C soil horizons would not otherwise be removed and where soil capabilities can be retained. If not utilized immediately, each horizon or other material shall be stockpiled separately from the spoil and all other excavated materials. Where combinations of such soil materials created by mixing have been shown to be equally or more favorable for plant growth than the B horizon, separate handling is not necessary.

(d) Stockpiles shall be placed within the permit area where they will not be disturbed or be subject to excessive erosion. If left in place for more than 30 days, stockpiles shall meet the requirements of §816.22 or §817.22 of this chapter.

[48 FR 21463, May 12, 1983, as amended at 53 FR 40839, Oct. 18, 1988]

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§823.14   Soil replacement.

(a) Soil reconstruction specifications established by the U.S. Soil Conservation Service shall be based upon the standards of the National Cooperative Soil Survey and shall include, as a minimum, physical and chemical characteristics of reconstructed soils and soil descriptions containing soil-horizon depths, soil densities, soil pH, and other specifications such that reconstructed soils will have the capability of achieving levels of yield equal to, or higher than, those of nomined prime farmland in the surrounding area.

(b) The minimum depth of soil and substitute soil material to be reconstructed shall be 48 inches, or a lesser depth equal to the depth to a subsurface horizon in the natural soil that inhibits or prevents root penetration, or a greater depth if determined necessary to restore the original soil productive capacity. Soil horizons shall be considered as inhibiting or preventing root penetration if their physical or chemical properties or water-supplying capacities cause them to restrict or prevent penetration by roots of plants common to the vicinity of the permit area and if these properties or capacities have little or no beneficial effect on soil productive capacity.

(c) The operator shall replace and regrade the soil horizons or other root-zone material with proper compaction and uniform depth.

(d) The operator shall replace the B horizon, C horizon, or other suitable material specified in §823.12(c)(2) to the thickness needed to meet the requirements of paragraph (b) of this section. In those areas where the B or C horizons were not removed but may have been compacted or otherwise damaged during the mining operation, the operator shall engage in deep tilling or other appropriate means to restore pre-mining capabilities.

(e) The operator shall replace the topsoil or other suitable soil materials specified in §823.12(c)(1) as the final surface soil layer. This surface soil layer shall equal or exceed the thickness of the original surface soil layer, as determined by the soil survey.

[48 FR 21463, May 12, 1983, as amended at 53 FR 40839, Oct. 18, 1988]

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§823.15   Revegetation and restoration of soil productivity.

(a) Following prime farmland soil replacement, the soil surface shall be stabilized with a vegetative cover or other means that effectively controls soil loss by wind and water erosion.

(b) Prime farmland soil productivity shall be restored in accordance with the following provisions:

(1) Measurement of soil productivity shall be initiated within 10 years after completion of soil replacement.

(2) Soil productivity shall be measured on a representative sample or on all of the mined and reclaimed prime farmland area using the reference crop determined under paragraph (b)(6) of this section. A statistically valid sampling technique at a 90-percent or greater statistical confidence level shall be used as approved by the regulatory authority in consultation with the U.S. Soil Conservation Service.

(3) The measurement period for determining average annual crop production (yield) shall be a minimum of 3 crop years prior to release of the operator's performance bond.

(4) The level of management applied during the measurement period shall be the same as the level of management used on nonmined prime farmland in the surrounding area.

(5) Restoration of soil productivity shall be considered achieved when the average yield during the measurement period equals or exceeds the average yield of the reference crop established for the same period for nonmined soils of the same or similar texture or slope phase of the soil series in the surrounding area under equivalent management practices.

(6) The reference crop on which restoration of soil productivity is proven shall be selected from the crops most commonly produced on the surrounding prime farmland. Where row crops are the dominant crops grown on prime farmland in the area, the row crop requiring the greatest rooting depth shall be chosen as one of the reference crops.

(7) Reference crop yields for a given crop season are to be determined from—

(i) The current yield records of representative local farms in the surrounding area, with concurrence by the U.S. Soil Conservation Service; or

(ii) The average county yields recognized by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which have been adjusted by the U.S. Soil Conservation Service for local yield variation within the county that is associated with differences between nonmined prime farmland soil and all other soils that produce the reference crop.

(8) Under either procedure in paragraph (b)(7) of this section, the average reference crop yield may be adjusted, with the concurrence of the U.S. Soil Conservation Service, for—

(i) Disease, pest, and weather-induced seasonal variations; or

(ii) Differences in specific management practices where the overall management practices of the crops being compared are equivalent.

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