Frequently Asked Questions
Do I need a mining permit?
You need a mining permit when you are removing minerals from the ground for sale, trade or financial or personal gain. Exceptions to this are called exemptions. You can be exempted from a mining permit for the following reasons:
- You as the landowner remove or authorize removal of mineral for use elsewhere on your land (Example: you can excavate stone or fill from one spot on your property to use for fill, driveway, landscaping, etc.)
- You or a contractor may remove mineral necessary to construct a building.
- Removal of noncoal materials for agricultural, solid waste disposal or government agency projects is allowed as long as no sale, trade or commercial gain is involved.
For a more detailed explanation, please see the Technical Guidance Document No. 563-2111-101 entitled “Noncommercial Exemption from Requirements of the Noncoal SMCRA" [Link]. To inquire about a specific circumstance, contact the District Mining Office or the Bureau of Mining and Reclamation.
Activities that are not considered noncoal mining include: Removal of stone walls, excavating accumulated sediment from ponds or swales, removal of material where the activity is covered under another DEP permit, and cut and fill operations where no material is removed. Please be aware that these activities may require local permits for earth disturbance. Contact your county conservation district before conducting earth disturbance.
Where can I get applications or other forms associated with a mining permit?
The eLibrary allows for viewing and downloading of most DEP forms. Look under Forms, Bureau of Mining and Reclamation tab. Permit application packages can be found under Permit and Authorization Packages. If you can’t find the form/application you are looking for, please contact the District Mining Office serving your county.
Can I get help filling out application forms?
Yes. Technical, clerical and inspection staff at the District Offices can assist you in completing application documents or permit forms. Bonds and licenses are issued out of the Harrisburg central office, Bureau of Mining and Reclamation. Please contact the respective offices to help with these documents. If you need significant help with the forms, it is strongly suggested that you schedule an appointment with District Office staff or consult with a professional service to help prepare your permit. DEP staff will not assist in designing or planning a mine operation. Some applications require preparation by professional engineers and geologists.
How will I know if a new quarry is proposed in my municipality?
For a new application or a proposed major revision to an existing application, the applicant is required to give public notice of the application in the legal notices of a local newspaper. Applications are also logged into the EFACTs system online. You can sign up to receive notices of DEP authorizations under review in your municipality (eNOTICE). The municipality and county office where a site is proposed will also receive notification from DEP of a received application. Check with your municipality to inquire whether they have received notification of an application. For a large noncoal operation, the municipality may know of the plans long before the applicant sends anything to DEP.
How can I get a copy of an issued permit or application under review?
Applications and permits are not available to the public in electronic format over the Internet. You can obtain copies by visiting the District Mining Office serving the county where the site is located. During review for a new permit application or major revision to a permit, the applicant must file a copy of the application at a public office in the locality of the site. You can view the information there as well. Copying of pages can be done for a fee at the Districts (maps are slightly more). Please call the office ahead of time to make an appointment to view the District file.
How can I voice objection or support for a proposed application?
If you have valid objections to a proposed application, you can send written comments to the District Mining office during the public comment period which is approximately 60 days after the permit is accepted by DEP for review. The instructions for comment are included in the public notice along with the last date to comment. You may also request, in writing, an informal conference or public meeting. Your comments will be taken into consideration during the review of the permit. DEP encourages commenters to wait until an application has been officially accepted by DEP to send comments. Remember that comments should be pertinent to the application at hand. It is not useful to comment on personal issues regarding the applicant. And, any land use issues (such as allowing a zoning exemption for mining) can not be addressed under DEP jurisdiction – a permit will not supercede local zoning ordinances. Please remember that DEP reviews the applications with regards to the regulations in place.
How can I get a quarry shut down or stop a quarry from opening in my community?
A mining company has the right to remove minerals as long as they comply with the Pennsylvania law and regulations. Mineral extraction is a valid use of land and is of economic benefit for the local community, and state and national interests. A municipality can not specifically exclude all mineral extraction from their land uses. The DEP can not simply shut down an operation without valid cause because a legal challenge will likely follow. Similarly, the DEP can not deny a permit application without a legal basis. However, the DEP will consider public comment on the operation with reference to the regulations. Local officials should consider the best interests of the municipality when allowing areas for mineral extraction and enacting local ordinances. It may be more beneficial to work with the quarry company to achieve reasonable compromise than to be intent on disallowing the activity entirely. Many communities peacefully coexist with a quarry and benefit from having them as a neighbor.
What happens if a quarry affects my water supply?
DEP has a fact sheet with information on this topic. Please see Quarries and Your Water Supply (5600-FS-DEP4076)
Are sinkholes related to quarry activity?
DEP has a web page with information on sinkholes. Please see Sinkholes
How will blasting affect me?
Please refer to the Blasting section of this web site.
How far must the mining activity be from my property line, house, stream, road, etc.?
The minimum setback distance that a highwall must be from the edge of the permit is 25 feet. (Cited in the regulations in Chapter 77, Section 77.572.) However, the permit line itself can be along the property line. Therefore, other activity can occur right to the edge. Other distance limitations are described in Chapter 77, section 77.504 and are as follows:
- 100 feet from the outside line of right-of-way of a public highway (or road), stream or cemetery.
- 300 feet of an occupied dwelling, public building, school, institution or commercial building.
- 300 feet from a public park.
The landowner may sign a waiver to allow operations within the setback area of an occupied dwelling or building. Waivers may also be given for roads, buildings and streams provided the responsible entity allows it.
What can I do about an abandoned quarry nearby?
Abandoned quarries are not regulated, mapped or inspected. The property owner is responsible for securing the site and preventing trespassers. By no means should you trespass or swim in an abandoned pit. There are hundreds of abandoned quarries in Pennsylvania that can be hazards but may be reclaimed for a useful purpose. However, there are no funds appropriated to do this such as there are for abandoned coal mines. If there is an abandoned quarry in your neighborhood, you can contact the municipality and landowner and promote working together to create an asset for the community instead of a hazard. DEP Mining and Reclamation staff would love to hear about efforts to reclaim abandoned quarries into commercial, residential, environmental or recreational uses.
Can I mine for gold or gems in Pennsylvania?
You can certainly try but knowledgeable geologists would not consider it a wise use of time. Gold occurs in some streams and rock formations in Pennsylvania but the amount is so small and dispersed that it is not a moneymaking venture. Pennsylvania is also not rich in gemstone deposits. Several people prospect and collect as a hobby without expectations of getting rich. Many good mineral specimens have been found in Pennsylvania. Surface collecting of mineral samples, gems or fossils do not require a permit (although obtaining landowner permission first is a must). Using large pumps or equipment in streams can cause sediment problems that may violate the Clean Streams Law but panning in the stream is usually harmless and does not require a permit. Large excavations for any metal, ore or gemstones would require a permit. Please be safety-conscious and environmentally cautious. Good luck!