The two (2) most valuable functions of the Oklahoma Department of Mines’ Minerals Division are the enforcement of a safe and healthy working environment for employees working in the mining industry and the enforcement of reclamation so that Oklahoma land is left in a productive, safe, and usable state. The Minerals Division accomplishes this function by enforcing mining laws found in Title 45 of the Oklahoma Statutes, the corresponding administrative regulations found under OAC 460:10, and the Non-Mining Blasting laws found under Title 63 of the Oklahoma Statutes as well as OAC 460:25.
Charged with the responsibility for protecting the environment of this State, protecting the health and safety of miners and protecting the life, health, and property of Oklahoma’s citizens who are affected by mining and related activities, the Minerals Division has three (3) separate programs, namely, Non-Coal mining, Coal Combustion By-products (“CCB”), and Non-mining Blasting. These programs work simultaneously and in tandem to accomplish the Minerals Division’s goals through:
- Issuing mining permits and revisions.
- Conducting annual permit reviews.
- Issuing bond releases.
- Issuing Non-Mining Blasting permits or permit exemptions for the purchase of explosives within Oklahoma.
- Conducting health and safety and environmental inspections on all Non-Coal surface and underground mines and CCB disposal mines.
- Conducting reclamation inspections on all Non-Coal surface and underground mines and CCB disposal mines.
- Conducting complaint investigations.
- Conducting public conferences on projected mine permits or permit revisions.
- Conducting blasting inspections on mine sites.
- Conducting accident or fatality investigations
- Conducting Non-Mining blasting inspections.
With courteous and professional assistance, the Minerals Division serves the 485 mining operators that hold 731 individual mining permits on file, the 20 non-mining blasting permittees, and the 117 non-mining blasting permit exemption holders who are currently on file with the Minerals Division. The Minerals Division’s door is always open to mining permittees, legislators, citizens and other interested parties. We have a largely diverse clientele, including multinational and national corporations, as well as small, “mom and pop” operators who we serve on a daily basis. Frequently, individuals or company representatives come into our offices without notice. These people are treated with respect and are given prompt attention. Applicable paperwork, regulations and data are available or easily generated for those who come into our office. This information can also be mailed or faxed as requested. In addition, permitting forms and information, Department rules and regulations and information about all of ODM’s duties and functions can be found by accessing our website (http://www.ok.gov/mines/). Despite our staff having field duties to perform, we make every effort to meet scheduled appointments, as well as unexpected demands. We encourage all of our clientele to bring us their unique and specific concerns at the earliest possible opportunity so we can allow ample time to address these concerns. While our mine inspectors are in the field on a daily basis, meeting with permittees and citizens, our office personnel respond to a plethora of telephone inquiries concerning all aspects of our obligations. All Minerals Division interactions with the industry and citizenry are conducted in an efficient and timely manner.
The extraction of minerals from the earth or mining of such minerals occurs in every county of this State. Minerals mined in Oklahoma include limestone, dimensional stone, sand and gravel, gypsum, clay and shale, granite, volcanic ash, tripoli, salt bentonite, iron (not shown), and chat (not shown). The Division regulates all mineral mine sites in Oklahoma. As of January 2011, 731 sites are currently permitted with the Department of Mines. This number is constantly changing as we receive applications for new permits, permit revisions and permit bond releases on a daily basis. In addition to the permitted sites regulated by the Minerals Division, our mine inspectors must follow up on all notifications from the Oklahoma Department of Transportation regarding possible borrow pit sites being utilized for government projects.
Minerals Division Personnel
The Minerals Division consists of nine (9) full time employees and two (2) temporary employees as follows:
A. Six (6) full-time inspectors, located throughout the State, conduct mine site inspections of current mining operations and mine sites in various phases of reclamation. They also oversee borrow pit operations. These inspectors are the liaison between the OMTI and mine employees. In addition, one of our inspectors is himself an underground mine foreman who conducts the underground coal mine inspections to enforce health and safety standards. Due to longevity and expertise, another of our inspectors serves as an assessment officer for various violations issued by the inspectors including non-mining blasting and mining without a permit.
B. One (1) full-time Environmental Analyst/Ecologist who serves as the technical advisor on all mining permits, performs health and safety inspections, functions as the specialized inspector of CCB sites and assists the Deputy Director with various Division functions. This employee also conducts informal conferences for the Division based on citizen protests of permit applications and bond releases.
C. One (1) full-time Administrative Assistant who coordinates all office work, assists in processing mining permits and bond release applications, maintaining permit and inspection records for the Division and serves as a liaison between citizens and the Department inspectors. This employee handles the non-mining blasting permits and exemptions records and all minerals complaints received from the citizenry. In addition, this employee serves as the Recording Secretary for the Oklahoma Mining Commission and assists the Deputy Director and Director with correspondence.
D. One (1) full-time working Administrator, (Deputy Director of the Agency), who processes and approves all Non-Coal mining permits, including CCB disposal plans, mining and blasting permit exemptions, blasting plans, and reclamation bond releases. The Division Administrator assists with inspections of all types and serves as liaison between permittees, members of the public, inspections staff and the legislature.
E. One (1) temporary employee who conducts inspections on non-mining blasting sites.
F. One (1) temporary employee who conducts mine site and reclamation inspections on non-coal locations within one (1) county.
There are also three (3) Coal Inspectors assigned to assist the Minerals in conducting a small number of non-coal mine sites. This change was implemented in July, 2003, to diminish the work load created by the reduction of two (2) non-coal inspector positions.