Legislative Notes: Metallic Mining and Reclamation in Michigan: Environmental Management as a Gentler Approach

A great deal has been said and written about the need for meaningful reclamation requirements for the surface mining of coal. Nonetheless, little attention has been given to the large quantity of land disturbed by mining for other minerals. Thirty-eight states have laws dealing directly with reclamation from a wide variety of mining operations . For purposes of this note, reclamation refers to those measures taken concurrently with or after the mining operation to reduce or repair the adverse effects of the operation on disrupted land . Environmental management is a much broader term which encompasses the full range of environmental protection measures involved with the decision to mine, the location and design of the operation, and the performance standards for various environmental impacts of the operation including, but not limited to, the reclamation requirements.

Although little coal is mined in Michigan, the state’s mining industry extracts a wide variety of minerals including iron ore, copper, sand and gravel, gypsum, and sulfur. This note will scrutinize the recently enacted Michigan Mine Reclamation Act as it pertains to metallic mining, the largest of these industries. It will examine the disturbances associated with iron and copper mining, outline the weaknesses of the Mine Reclamation Act, and propose certain changes to improve that Act. This note will also attempt to demonstrate that comprehensive environmental management of land disturbances from metallic mining operations is a desirable approach to problems usually dealt with by reclamation laws.