74-56. Inspection and approval of reclamation; bond release or forfeiture.

(a) The Department may direct investigations as it may reasonably deem necessary to carry out its duties as prescribed by this Article, and for this purpose may enter at reasonable times upon any mining operation for the purpose of determining compliance with this Article and any rules adopted under this Article and for determining compliance with the terms and conditions of a mining permit, but for no other purpose. No person shall refuse entry or access to any authorized representative of the Department who enters the mining operation for purposes of inspection or other official duties and who presents appropriate credentials; nor shall any person obstruct, hamper, or interfere with the representative while the representative is carrying out official duties. Upon arriving at the site, the representative of the Department shall make every reasonable effort to notify the operator or the operator's agent that the representative of the Department intends to inspect the site. Upon receipt of the operator's annual report or report of completion of reclamation and at any other reasonable time the Department may elect, the Department shall cause the permit area to be inspected to determine whether the operator has complied with the reclamation plan, the requirements of this Article, any rules adopted under this Article, and the terms and conditions of the permit.

(b) The operator shall proceed with reclamation as scheduled in the approved reclamation plan. The Department shall conduct an inspection and give written notice to the operator of any deficiencies noted. The operator shall thereupon commence action within 30 days to rectify these deficiencies and shall diligently proceed until they have been corrected. The Department may extend performance periods referred to in this section and in G.S. 74-53 for delays clearly beyond the operator's control, but only in cases where the Department finds that the operator is making every reasonable effort to comply.

(c) Upon completion of reclamation of an area of affected land, the operator shall notify the Department. The Department shall make an inspection of the area, and if it finds that reclamation has been properly completed, it shall notify the operator in writing and release the operator from further obligations regarding the affected land. At the same time the Department shall release all or the appropriate portion of any performance bond or other security that the operator has posted under G.S. 74-54.

(d) If at any time the Department finds that reclamation of the permit area is not proceeding in accordance with the reclamation plan and that the operator has failed within 30 days after notice to commence corrective action, or if the Department finds that reclamation has not been properly completed in conformance with the reclamation plan within two years, or longer if authorized by the Department, after termination of mining on any segment of the permit area, the Department shall initiate forfeiture proceedings against the bond or other security filed by the operator under G.S. 74-59. In addition, failure to implement the reclamation plan shall constitute grounds for suspension or revocation of the operator's permit, as provided in G.S. 74-58. (1971, c. 545, s. 11; 1987, c. 827, s. 85; 1993 (Reg. Sess., 1994), c. 568, s. 7; 1995, c. 504, s. 3.)