Surface Mining:

Operation of the Applicant Violator System Can Be Improved

AFMD-89-31: Published: Jan 24, 1989. Publicly Released: Feb 9, 1989.

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Jeffrey C. Steinhoff
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In response to a congressional request, GAO assessed the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement's (OSMRE) efforts to implement its Applicant Violator System (AVS).

GAO found that: (1) the OSMRE automated permit review system was inadequate to effectively determine whether permits should be issued or denied; (2) incomplete names and addresses, inconsistent recordkeeping and reports, and a lack of a proper definition of mining ownership or control hampered AVS effectiveness; (3) OSMRE relied on manual processing to verify AVS information, resulting in delays in meeting states' projected approval dates; (4) OSMRE had not incorporated data from other mining ownership and control information sources to adequately compare and match applicants and violators; and (5) AVS lacked linkage features and other capabilities, while an interest group's comparable system had access to state mining permit and Department of Labor mine safety and health data.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Labor mine data has been added to the system which has resulted in an improvement in the system's ability to link applicants to violators. An accomplishment report is currently being processed. The information update has been finalized. Status of others are part of the followup review.

    Recommendation: To improve the accuracy of the data in the system and thereby reduce reliance on manual verifications and ensure compliance with section 510 of the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act, the Department of the Interior should: (1) incorporate the data sources accessed during the manual verification process into AVS, including but not limited to Labor's Mine Safety and Health Administration system, to improve the quality of the data in the system; (2) expedite efforts to finalize both the information update rule and the clearinghouse procedures in order to obtain more current information; and (3) monitor state adherence to the recently promulgated ownership and control rule and, when finalized, the information update rule.

    Agency Affected: Department of the Interior

  2. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: Subsequent to the January 1989 report, NWF sued the Department for noncompliance with the law. Currently, it has reached a preliminary agreement which requires the Department to follow whatever final court settlement is reached regardless of the recommendation.

    Recommendation: The Department of the Interior should work with the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) to establish specific dates and milestones to complete its comparisons of AVS and the Wildlife system and incorporate those features of the Wildlife system which will enhance AVS coverage and operation.

    Agency Affected: Department of the Interior


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