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Mining - Why We Regulate It

South Carolina has about 540 active mine operating permits. There are several types of surface mining done in South Carolina: open pit (i.e., granite, vermiculite), strip mines (i.e., sand, clay, gravel) and sand dredging from river bottoms.

Mining in South Carolina is regulated by the S.C. Mining Act, S.C. Code Ann. 48-20-10, et seq. (Rev. 2008). The Act ensures that all land and water associated with mine activity receive a practical degree of protection and restoration. DHEC is authorized to issue permits for mine operations and ensure that mines comply with laws and regulations.

Why We Regulate Mining

Before the S.C.Mining Act was enacted, abandoned mines created these and other concerns:

  • Eroded soil from mining operations was affecting adjacent properties
  • Surface waters from mined lands were being left un-vegetated
  • There were safety issues regarding steep high walls
  • Improperly designed ponds were not viable for aquatic life
  • There was no oversight concerning appropriate buffers from adjacent properties, surface waters, and other areas of concern (e.g., wetlands, endangered species, cultural resources).

All mining operations in South Carolina are surface mines. As with many land clearing activities, potential concerns exist. However, with proper controls in place, restoring (reclaiming) disturbed areas as mining progresses, and having a viable plan to reclaim the site to a useful purpose, minimizes the potential impact.

A company's application for a mine permit includes information on the planned mine operation (mineral, depth, etc.), proposed measures for environmental protection and public safety, and an outline on how and when the company plans to restore (reclaim) the land. After a thorough technical review, DHEC may issue a permit to operate and include specific terms and conditions to minimize possible adverse effects.

Common issues raised by the public today include property values and truck traffic. The S.C. Mining Act and other regulations do not give DHEC jurisdiction over these concerns. However, the Act does not supersede local zoning ordinances that can control the location of mine operations.

As for traffic concerns, the use of roads is controlled by the county Public Works Department or the South Carolina Department of Transportation.

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