The Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act (SMCRA), proncounced “smack-ra,” was enacted in 1977 to provide a regulatory framework for dealing with surface coal mines, as well as a mechanism to deal with the lands and waters that had been adversely affected by past coal mining. SMCRA placed a fee of 35 cents per ton of surface mined coal, 15 cents per ton of coal mined underground, and 10 cents per ton of lignite on all active mining operations.
The fees are collected by the Office of Surface Mining (OSM) and put into the Abandoned Mine Land Reclamation Fund. They are then transferred to the States based on congressional budgetary appropriations. In general, 50 percent of the reclamation fees collected in each State is returned to the state for reclamation, if they have a federally approved reclamation program. The remaining 50 percent of the SMCRA fee is used by the OSM for high priority projects and other programs.
SMCRA funds are to be intended for clean up projects at coal mines that were abandoned prior to August 3, 1977 and cannot be used on sites that are already on the Superfund National Priorities List. In some cases, SMCRA can be used to address abandoned hardrock mines, if the state certifies that they have already addressed all of the coal mine problems under their jurisdiction. So far, the Hopi and Navajo tribes and the states of Louisiana, Montana, Texas, and Wyoming, have certified the completion of all coal mine reclamation projects.
Surface Mine Control and Reclamation Act – Office of Surface Mining