Taft to sign law strengthening regulation of minerals operations

COLUMBUS – A new state law, passed by the General Assembly and on its way to Gov. Bob Taft’s desk for signature, significantly strengthens the state’s oversight, and increases public input, of mining for industrial minerals such as limestone, gravel and clay.

Ohio Department of Natural Resources director Sam Speck said that Senate Bill 83, the first comprehensive overhaul of the state’s industrial minerals law since 1974, received important support both from the environmental community and Ohio’s mining industry.

Taft is expected to sign the bill later this month, Speck said.

“This law gives us important new tools for protecting water resources through increased regulation of in-stream and near-stream mining.

“It also provides local communities with a stronger voice in decision-making as to the location of proposed mines or quarries,” Speck said.

“Environmental organizations welcome the strengthened protection, while the industry appreciates how this law makes the regulatory process more efficient and timely.”

About the bill. An initiative of the Taft administration, the bill was sponsored by state Sen. Jim Carnes of St. Clairsville.

Industrial minerals extracted in Ohio include sand and gravel, limestone, dolomite, salt, clay, sandstone, shale, gypsum and peat.

According to ODNR, the industry generates sales of more than $750 million annually and employs nearly 5,000 Ohioans in 86 of the state’s 88 counties.

Key features. Speck said that key features of the new industrial minerals law include:

* Increased citizen and local government involvement. The law provides improved access for public and local government involvement in the industrial mineral permitting process.

Public notice requirements combined with the zoning information will allow the public and local authorities to proactively view proposed plans.

Also, advertisements announcing the permit application will be run once a week in a local newspaper for four consecutive weeks. In addition, public notification of significant revisions to a permit will be required.

* Strengthened negotiating position for local communities. Community leaders will be in a position to discuss a pending application – rather than reacting after-the-fact to an issued permit.

This will allow citizens and local authorities to deal with new operations in a pro-active mode, before a permit decision has been made.

* Regulation of in-stream and near-stream mining. The law adds permit requirements and public notification for in-stream or near-stream permits. Before passage of Senate Bill 83, no such rule existed.

* Increased groundwater protection. Under provisions in the law, a mining permit application must include a groundwater modeling study, allowing local authorities and state regulators to take into account a proposed operation’s impact on the region’s hydrology.

Adjacent property owners receive new protections against potential groundwater loss due to mining operations.

* Protection from effects of blasting. The law includes new requirements with regard to blasting at industrial mineral quarries and mines, affording greater protection for nearby homes and businesses.

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