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Bluestone Exploration and Mining

Bluestone Exploration and Mining

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Bluestone Mines

Bluestone quarry

Bluestone is defined as a dense, hard, fine-grained, quartz/feldspathic sandstone of Devonian Age, which is easily split along bedding planes. Commonly dark or slate gray, as well as blue, the term is applied to all varieties, irrespective of color. Bluestone has been used for sidewalks, curbing, countertops, patios, fireplaces and a host of other structural and decorative uses. A bluestone quarry in New York State may need a Mined Land Reclamation Permit from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC).

The Mined Land Reclamation Law requires any person who engages in mining or who proposes to mine from a mine site more than 1,000 tons or 750 cubic yards, whichever is less, of minerals from the earth within twelve successive calendar months or who proposes to mine more than 100 cubic yards of minerals from or adjacent to any body of water not subject to the jurisdiction of Article 15 of the Environmental Conservation Law must first obtain a permit from DEC.

Mined Land Reclamation Database - Access to the Mined Land Reclamation Online Searchable Database

Bluestone Exploration Authorizations

On July 25, 2002, amendments to the New York State Mined Land Reclamation Law ("MLRL") were signed into law which created a bluestone exploration authorization provision. The amendments allow bluestone miners to excavate overburdern and explore for bluestone deposits without having to go through the full Mined Land Reclamation permitting process. The amendments also limit the authorization to a person with five or fewer employees, or a small business applying on behalf of such a person, and limits this person to no more than five authorizations at one time, none of which may be adjacent to other authorization sites.

The Bluestone Exploration Authorization requirements are tailored to the narrower scope of the exploration efforts with an emphasis on reclamation. Under a Bluestone Exploration Authorization, small quantities of stone can be extracted to determine if the material is workable and marketable. A landowner or quarryman can determine whether a potential deposit is worth mining before making significant investment of time and money to apply for a full Mined Land Reclamation Permit.

Bluestone occurs in DEC Regions 3, 4 and 7 and most of them are found in the 5-county area of Tompkins, Broome, Delaware, Chenango and Otsego Counties. The Bluestone Exploration Authorization is a continuation of DEC's efforts to recognize the unique features of the industry.

Key Elements of the Bluestone Exploration Authorization Legislation

  • Exploration site is limited to a maximum 1-acre area
  • Exploration site can't be adjacent to a water body or another exploration site
  • Stone removal may not exceed 500 tons per year
  • Exploration authorization expires in one year unless a one-time renewal is obtained
  • No annual regulatory program fee
  • Site must be reclaimed by the end of the authorization period
  • Financial security ($5,000) is required to ensure reclamation

The Bluestone Exploration Authorization application process also sets specific, detailed requirements for applications, including maps, copies of any local permits and measures to control erosion and prevent groundwater contamination. DEC must provide local governments with a copy of any applications and provide an opportunity for a local determination pursuant to existing provisions of the MLRL. Documents needed to complete a Bluestone Exploration Authorization application, including instructions, application forms, financial security forms and other application materials are available from the below-referenced links or may be obtained from regional mined land reclamation staff.

Bluestone Exploration Authorization Application Form and Instructions (PDF) (295 KB)

The required financial security for Bluestone Exploration Authorizations is $5,000. The necessary financial security forms can be downloaded from the Mined Land Financial Security page.

Application Materials

The application requirements for a bluestone exploration authorization include the following:

  • Completed application form
  • Description of the proposed activity
  • Copies of any local permits, if required
  • General location map
  • Sketch of exploration area
  • Environmental measures to control erosion and sedimentation
  • Environmental measures to protect groundwater
  • Financial Security

Application Processing

Within approximately 15 days of Bluestone Exploration Authorization application receipt, DEC staff will:

  • Review the project to determine if other permits are required
  • Review the project with regard to New York Archeology Locations, Wild, Scenic and Recreation River program concerns and Endangered Species Act applicability
  • Provide copies of Bluestone Exploration Authorization Application to other DEC program staff (e.g. Division of Water, Division of Environmental Permits, Division of Fish and Wildlife)
  • Review application for completeness and notify the applicant if the application is determined to be incomplete

Within approximately 45 days of receiving a complete Bluestone Exploration Authorization application, the following actions shall be satisfied:

  • Mined Land Reclamation staff will inspect the site
  • The applicant must provide financial security
  • Mined Land Reclamation staff will send a letter and copy of the application package to the local Chief Administration Officer
  • If the mine site is located within the New York City watershed area, Mined Land Reclamation staff will send a copy of the completed application to the New York City Department of Environmental Protection
  • If application is approvable, Mined Land Reclamation staff signs the application package, provides authorization dates and returns a copy of the completed application to the applicant

Renewals

An operator may seek a one-time, one-year renewal if it is determined that additional exploration is required to evaluate the resource. Renewals must be submitted 30 days prior to the expiration date of the initial authorization. If an exploration authorization renewal is submitted in a timely manner (i.e., at least 30 days prior to the expiration date) the applicant will be allowed to continue with exploration activities while the renewal application is being processed. DEC will not process renewals received after the initial bluestone authorization has expired. Reclamation of the site must be then be completed. All renewals expire at the two-year anniversary date of the original authorization.

Transition from a Bluestone Exploration Authorization to a DEC Mined Land Reclamation Permit

The Division of Mineral Resources has developed criteria to allow for the transitioning of an exploration authorization to a Mined Land Reclamation permit. This would be necessary when bluestone exploration activities are expected to remove more than 500 tons per year from the authorization site, when an area greater than one acre is expected to be disturbed or when resource extraction is projected beyond the term of the initial exploration authorization or the one-year renewal.

An application for a mining permit should be submitted at least 120 days prior to the expiration date of the bluestone exploration authorization to avoid unnecessary interruption of exploration or mining activities. Procedural requirements of the Uniform Procedures Act (UPA) and State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA) apply to mining permit applications. If a mining permit application is pending when the exploration authorization expires, reclamation will not be ordered until a decision has been made on the mining permit application. No mining or bluestone exploration activities will be allowed after the expiration date of the bluestone exploration authorization, unless a mining permit has been issued.

Small-Scale Bluestone Mines

Since March 3, 1999, a small-scale bluestone mining application has been available to operators of bluestone mines. A small-scale bluestone mine is defined as a bluestone mine where the total area to be affected by mining activities will not exceed 5 acres. This shall include all presently disturbed or excavated areas, areas used for storing overburden or product and any haulage ways leading to the mine.

In order to assist the small-scale bluestone miner with the application process, the Department put together a guide detailing the Small Scale Bluestone Mine Permit Application Requirements (PDF) (30 KB). This guide provides information regarding the overview of the application process, financial security requirements, annual regulatory fees, how to apply for a permit, the minimum requirements for the Mined Land Use Plan and a list of standard conditions that are used for small-scale bluestone mines.

Report to the Governor and Legislature Regarding Bluestone Exploration

The portion of the Mined Land Reclamation Law which provides for the Bluestone Exploration Authorization mandated that before March 15, 2008, the Department submit a Report to the Governor and Legislature Regarding Bluestone Mining Exploration in the State (PDF) (909 KB). The report lists the sites and their locations, any detrimental environmental impacts, and an assessment of the environmental benefits from the exploration authorization provision.

Overburden stripping is included as mining when calculating the total amount of material mined from each site. Disturbing or stripping of overburden at a site is mining.

The only way to be sure you are fully informed of all permit requirements, and are not liable for penalties, is to contact DEC before you start to remove any overburden or mine any bluestone.

Contact a DEC Mined Land Reclamation Specialist for more information:

Region 3 (845) 256 - 3128
Region 4 (518) 357 - 2254
Region 7 (315) 426 - 7461