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Federal Lands

The Federal Lands Program is for regulation of coal mining and reclamation operations on Federal lands pursuant to the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977 (SMCRA) and the Mineral Leasing Act of 1920 (MLA). SMCRA defines Federal lands to mean any land, including mineral interests, owned by the United States without regard to how the United States acquired ownership of the land and without regard to the agency having responsibility for management thereof.

In the West, OSMRE has delegated the administration of SMCRA on Federal lands to regulatory agencies in the States of Colorado, Montana, North Dakota, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming. This delegated authority is pursuant to Section 523(c) of SMCRA and State-Federal Cooperative Agreements between the Secretary of the Interior and the Governor of the respective State. These State-Federal Cooperative agreements are found at 30 CFR Parts 906, 926, 934, 931, 944, and 950, for the respective States. The cooperative agreements provide that the States perform all permitting activities, as well as day-to-day inspections and enforcement on those mines.

However, sections 523(a) and 523(c) of the Act provides that the Secretary may not delegate to the State, among other things, his responsibilities to approve mining plans on Federal lands. Until the Secretary has approved the mining plan no person may conduct surface coal mining and reclamation operations on lands containing leased Federal coal. A mining plan is the plan for mining leased Federal coal required by the Mineral Leasing Act of 1920. The Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement's (OSMRE) is charged with preparing a recommendation in the form of a mining plan decision document (MPDD) that the Assistant Secretary for Land and Minerals (ASLM) will use to approve mining plans on Federal lands. Part of the development of the MPDD is the coordination that occurs with other agencies, including the findings and recommendations of the BLM on the resource recovery and protection plan and the State on the surface coal mining and reclamation plan required under SMCRA, and ensuring compliance with the requirements of NEPA, Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act, the National Historic Preservation Act and applicable requirements of other Federal laws, regulations and executive orders other than SMCRA. The ASLM may approve, disapprove or approve with conditions the mining plan. If approved the applicant may proceed with mining.

OSMRE has always made MPDD and the supporting documentation, including any NEPA analysis and the finding of no significant impact (FONSI) or the finding of NEPA adequacy, available to the public in our Mine Plan Reference Center, located at the Western Region Office. However, because of recently expressed interest in having the NEPA analysis and FONSI or the finding of NEPA adequacy more publically available, OSMRE has decided to post those documents on our web page in addition to having the MPDD available in our Mine Plan Reference Center. If you are interested in viewing the NEPA analysis and the FONSI or the finding of NEPA adequacy please click on the following link: Federal Lands Mining Plan NEPA Documentation.


For more information about OSMRE Regulating Coal Mines, visit the OSMRE website at

Page Last Modified/Reviewed: 12/22/16

Western Region OSMRE, PO Box 25065, Lakewood, CO 80225-0065
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