Noncoal/Industrial Minerals Mining
'Noncoal' is any mined commodity that isn't coal or peat. These minerals are also referred to as "nonfuel minerals" or "industrial minerals". The most common noncoal mines in Pennsylvania produce "aggregate" (hard granular material used in concrete, mortar, plaster, blacktop). The types of rock used for these purposes are limestone/ dolomite, sandstone and argillite. Mineral deposits (that are not consolidated rock) of sand and gravel are also used. Rock is also crushed into specific sizes to produce "crushed stone" for road base and fill material. Shale can be extracted fairly easily, without crushing, for similar purposes. Mining of noncoal/industrial minerals is a major industry. Pennsylvania is consistently one of the top 10 producing states in the country for aggregate/crushed stone. Other noncoal mines produce specialty mineral products such as bluestone, diabase, serpentinite, refractory sand, and more. Metals or metal ore are not currently mined in PA but they have been in the past (and may be again someday).
Directory of Nonfuel Mineral Producers
Noncoal mining in Pennsylvania was first regulated under Act No. 147 of 1971. The first set of noncoal regulations were promulgated under that Act and became Subchapter E of Chapter 77, effective July 1973. Prior to that, quarries were unregulated for mineral removal.
The current noncoal mining law is called the Noncoal Surface Mining Conservation and Reclamation Act (Noncoal SMCRA, Act No. 219), which was enacted in 1984. This replaced the old Act No. 147.
Before Act 147 took effect (a time known as Pre-Act, taken to be prior to January 1, 1972), quarries were abandoned and left unreclaimed when mineral extraction concluded. Highwalls that have not been affected since then are designated Pre-Act, and, even in active quarries today, may not be required to be reclaimed. Any highwall affected after January 1972 is required to be reclaimed according to an approved reclamation plan.
The Acts were incorporated into Pennsylvania law, called Statutes. (The statutes are not available on the web but if you are interested in a specific Act, please contact your closest District Mining Office or the Bureau of Mining Programs for a copy.) The current regulations are based on the Pennsylvania law of 1984. The following Chapters of the Pennsylvania Code (Title 25) provide the regulatory basis for noncoal mining and reclamation in Pennsylvania:
77: Noncoal Mining
Surface noncoal mining activity includes the extraction of product (including soil) directly from the ground or from waste or stock piles, pits or banks. A permit is required to conduct any mining activities. Permit area includes mining and support areas, facilities and roads. Permits are also required for exploration activities. A large noncoal mining permit does not expire and does not require renewal. An operator of a noncoal mining permit must be licensed. The area covered under a noncoal mining permit must be bonded to ensure reclamation is completed. Permit application documents, additional forms, informational publications and Technical Guidance documents can be found in the Department's eLibrary.
Underground mining of noncoal is authorized as part of the surface activity. There are currently no specific regulations pertaining to underground mining of noncoal though mine safety provisions do apply. The Department is in the process of developing a new application process for underground noncoal mines.
Public Notification: Noncoal Mining Permits
A large noncoal permit requires the operator to have a Large Noncoal Operators License. Tonnage and acreage are unrestricted. To apply for this permit type, use these documents.
A small noncoal permit is a simpler application but restricts extraction area to 5 acres. A Small Noncoal Operators License will permit you to mine up to 2,000 tons per calendar year. A Large Noncoal Operators License will permit you to mine up to 10,000 tons per calendar year under this permit type. To apply for this permit type, use these documents.
BMP GP-103 Short Term Construction Project (Revised 2010) This permit is for extraction of noncoal minerals to supply fill material for a specific construction project. The noncoal minerals extracted under this general permit must be used solely on the construction project identified in a registration application and cannot be used or sold for any other purpose. The duration of the mineral extraction may not exceed 1 year, unless a 3-month extension is approved. The maximum area allowed under this general permit is 5 acres. To apply for this permit type, use these documents.
BMP GP-105 General Permit for Bluestone This permit allows for the extraction of bluestone from a site. The total mining area to be affected by the bluestone extraction activities cannot exceed 5 acres. Total authorized area for extraction plus support activities cannot exceed 10 acres. The permit expires in 10 years unless an extension is approved. To apply for this permit type, use these documents.
All mining permits need an associated NPDES permit (National Pollution Discharge Elimination System). Small permit may be able to utilize BMP GP-104 General Permit For Discharges Of Stormwater Associated With Mining Activities. The GP-104 is not applicable for the following conditions:
- Sites that have an individual NPDES permit or other NPDES general permit.
- Those activities where one or more of the conditions listed in 25 Pa Code § 92a.54(e)(1)-(9) exist, which is more appropriately controlled under and individual permit.
- Mining activity that will or has the potential to discharge to 'HQ' or 'EV' designated waters, including EV wetlands, which is more appropriately controlled under and individual permit.
- Mining activity that will or has the potential to discharge to streams designated as "impaired waters" for sediment, which is more appropriately controlled under and individual permit.
- Discharges of process water or pumped groundwater.
If the GP-104 cannot be used, an Individual NPDES permit must be obtained. To apply for this permit, use these documents.
Permitting of noncoal mining and the associated NPDES permit occurs at the following District Mining Offices:
Please see Frequently Asked Questions for more information.
Fee Information (2010 proposal)
Quarries and Water Supplies (PDF)
Bluestone Mining Permits in Pennsylvania (PDF)