Importance of Financial Guarantees for Ensuring Reclamation of Federal Lands

T-RCED-89-13: Published: Mar 7, 1989. Publicly Released: Mar 7, 1989.

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GAO discussed the Forest Service's, Bureau of Land Management's (BLM), and the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement's (OSMRE) procedures for ensuring reclamation of land involved in hardrock mining operations. GAO noted that the Forest Service: (1) required mine operators to file operation plans to determine the extent of land disturbance, identify strategies to minimize land damage, and determine the necessity of a financial guarantee for land reclamation; (2) required periodic inspections to ensure operators' compliance with plans; (3) required guarantees for 214 of 336 operations during 1986; and (4) experienced difficulty in getting operators to reclaim damaged land in 4 of 10 operations for which it did not require a guarantee. GAO noted that BLM: (1) only required approval of those operations involving more than 5 acres of land; (2) required few operators to post financial guarantees; (3) believed that a federal program of mandatory bonds or financial guarantees for operators would be expensive and detrimental to small operators; and (4) recommended compliance visits to ensure operators' compliance with plans and other land-use requirements. GAO noted that OSMRE recently developed procedures to determine reclamation bond adequacy.

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