SMARA Program Support
The California Surface Mining and Reclamation Act (SMARA) recognizes that mineral extraction is essential to the state economy and society while reclamation of those mined lands provides for environmental protection and subsequent beneficial uses. Land use regulation, including SMARA compliance, is overseen at the local government level. When a lead agency’s SMARA compliance program is comprehensive, both the mining industry and the community benefit.
Benchmark Resources has unique expertise meeting SMARA mandates. We have provided SMARA compliance services to more than 60% of the counties in California via application development, environmental analysis, processing assistance, and inspections since the mid-1980s.
We have prepared and reviewed hundreds of reclamation plans. Our work is tailored to meet SMARA obligations while respecting both the lead agencies’ and the operators’ time and resources. We have the technical expertise to evaluate all of the technical engineering, safety, and environmental protection aspects of the statute and regulations, including:
- Wildlife habitat
- Endangered species
- Slope stability
- Engineering and erosion control
- Agricultural productivity
- Surface water
Benchmark Resources processes reclamation plans, reviews financial assurances, performs annual inspections, generates operator reports, performs lead agency administrative processes, and assists with enforcement.
Benchmark Resources supports lead agencies by providing specialized expertise to the review, development, and implementation of their SMARA program. Our experience allows Benchmark staff to implement and perform SMARA requirements in an efficient and compliant manner. As a result, many lead agencies contract with Benchmark. We review and process applications for new or amended mining operations and work as an extension of lead agency staff in preparing documentation and supporting the review process, including:
- Application completeness review
- Reclamation plan adequacy
- CEQA compliance (preparation of initial studies, environmental impact reports, negative declarations, mitigated negative declarations)
- Preparation and circulation of public and responsible agency notifications
- Staff report, conditions of approval, and findings
- SMARA ordinance compliance
- Mineral resource designation and management, resource agency coordination and conflict resolution
- Hearings presentations
- Compliance monitoring of conditions of approval
- Educational seminars
Benchmark Resources staff annually completes 100 surface mine inspections statewide. Our ability to quickly and accurately assess the compliance conditions at an operation are the result of 30 years of mine and reclamation planning and staff with prior experience working in mine operations. Our goal is always to meet the requirements in an efficient process, minimizing the impact to operations and agency staff time.
SMARA requires mine operators to financially ensure the completion of reclamation. SMARA requirements for cost estimates, lead agency review, and timing mechanisms were significantly modified in January 2017.
Benchmark Resources’ team has prepared and verified hundreds of financial assurance cost estimates (FACEs) for all types of mining operations and reclaimed land uses. Accurate estimation of costs requires experience interpreting the tasks required to meet the various commitments in a reclamation plan at any point in time. We have completed FACEs for phased reclamation and final closure, and we understand what is accepted in practice by lead agencies and the California Department of Conservation in satisfying SMARA.
“I first became aware of Benchmark Resources when I saw its reclamation plans, financial assurance, and inspection reports appear in submissions by county after county. When I had the opportunity to engage its staff, I found their knowledge and integrity to be impeccable.”
Doug Craig, Chief
Office of Mine Reclamation (retired)
“As a former member of the California State Mining and Geology Board, I have seen literally hundreds of inspection reports and FAE calculations. The ones submitted by Benchmark Resources are the best. Thanks for making my job easier.”