Mineral Resources of Tulare County
The most economically significant mineral resources in Tulare County are sand, gravel, and crushed stone, used as sources for aggregate (road materials and other construction). The two major sources of aggregate are alluvial deposits (river beds, and floodplains), and hard rock quarries. Consequently, most Tulare County mines are located along rivers at the base of the Sierra foothills. There are currently twenty eight active aggregate mines in Tulare County.
Regulation of Mineral Resources (SMARA)
Surface mining in California is regulated through the Surface Mining and Reclamation Act (SMARA), a state law adopted in 1975 to address the dual goals of protecting the state’s need for a continuing supply of mineral resources, while protecting public and environmental health. SMARA mandates that land be reclaimed after mining has ceased. Reclamation plans often restore land for agricultural uses or as wildlife habitat (see Office of Mine Reclamation for a fuller description of SMARA issues).
SMARA is administered jointly at the state level by the Department of Conservation’s Office of Mine Reclamation and the State Mining and Geology Board . The Office of Mine Reclamation (OMR) periodically publishes an updated list of mines regulated under SMARA that meet the provisions established under SMARA legislation (the AB 3098 List). At the local level, local agencies adopt ordinances for land use permitting and reclamation procedures, review permit applications and reclamation plans, and annually inspect mining operations for compliance. The Tulare County Resource management Agency is the lead agency for processing Tulare County surface mine reclamation plan applications.
Nathan Higgins, Land Steward for Sequoia Riverlands Trust describes restoration efforts at Dry Creek Preserve, a former Tulare County gravel mine.
The Office of Mine Reclamation website provides valuable information on SMARA, Reclamation, Financial Assurances, Reporting and Compliance, a list of Workshops and Official Notices, the most current AB 3098 list, and useful links to many other websites.
The State Mining & Geology Board website provides general guidelines, regulatory news, financial assurances guidelines, guidelines for classification and designation of mineral lands, a model SMARA ordinance, and a small mine reclamation plan prototype.