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Surface Coal Mining

The primary methods of surface coal mining used in Pennsylvania are:

  • Strip Mining: Layers of soil and rock overburden are removed the coal exposed coal seam is excavated. The area is then backfilled, regraded, and replanted during the reclamation process.
  • Highwall Mining: An outcrop of coal is removed by traditional excavators, or by using auger mining (drilling directly into the coal) to remove the coal seam, leaving the surrounding rock layers intact.

Surface coal mining can be found in western, eastern middle, and northeastern Pennsylvania.


The following Chapters of the Pennsylvania Code (Title 25) provide the regulatory basis for surface coal mining and reclamation in Pennsylvania:

86: Surface and Underground Coal Mining: General

87: Surface Mining of Coal

88: Anthracite Coal

89: Coal Refuse Disposal


Surface mining activity includes the extraction of coal directly from the ground or from waste or stock piles, pits or banks. A permit is required to conduct surface mining activities. Permit area includes mining and support areas, facilities and roads. Permits are also required for exploration activities and processing plants. A coal mining permit must be renewed every five years. An operator of a coal mining permit must be licensed. The area covered under a coal 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.

Public Notification: Coal Mining Permits


All mining permits need an associated NPDES permit (National Pollution Discharge Elimination System). Some operations 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 surface coal mining and the associated NPDES permit occurs at the following District Mining Offices:

Additional Information

A Citizens Guide to the Permit Applications Process (PDF)

Surface Coal Mining and your Water Supply (PDF)

Methane Gas and Water Wells (PDF)

Stray Carbon Dioxide in Homes (PDF)

Surface Mining Conservation and Reclamation Act 2014 - Reclamation and Remining Incentives Report