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Coal Surface Mining on Indian Lands: From Checkerboard to Crazy Quilt

Lynn H. Slade, Mineral Development On Indian Lands (1989)

This paper seeks to describe the regulatory environment affecting coal exploration, mining and reclamation on Indian lands. Its focus is the applicability of regulatory provisions affecting coal exploration, mining, and reclamation on Indian lands. I leave to others detailed analysis of SMCRA's regulatory and environmental standards,4 as well as other matters directly affecting coal mining economics, such as taxation and product valuation for royalty purposes. Hence, this paper first will summarize briefly the statutes, regulations, and legal concepts governing leases or contracts for Indian-owned coal.5 It will then trace the development of coal surface mining regulation on Indian lands, including the evolution of Indian lands regulation under the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977 (SMCRA)6 by the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSM). It will examine Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) regulations governing coal exploration on Indian-owned lands.7 The paper then will review the OSM regulations governing coal mining operations and reclamation.8 It will then outline the allocation of regulatory authority over coal surface mining on lands arguably defined as “Indian lands,” as framed by controversy surrounding SMCRA's statutory definition of “Indian lands.”9 Finally, it [10-3] will suggest ideas for coal miners