SMARA is an acronym for the Surface Mining and Reclamation Act of 1975. SMARA was enacted by the California Legislature to address the need for a continuing supply of mineral resources, and to prevent or minimize the negative impacts of surface mining to public health, property and the environment.

Imperial County Mining Map

The Department of Conservation’s Office of Mine Reclamation (OMR) and the State Mining and Geology Board (SMGB) are jointly charged with ensuring proper administration of the Act’s requirements. The SMGB promulgates regulations to clarify and interpret the Act’s provisions, and also serves as a policy and appeals board. The OMR provides an ongoing technical assistance program for lead agencies and operators, maintains a database of mine locations and operational information statewide, and is responsible for compliance related matters.

The process of reclamation includes maintaining water and air quality, minimizing flooding, erosion and damage to wildlife and aquatic habitats caused by surface mining. The final step in this process is often topsoil replacement and re-vegetation with suitable plant species.

The following are examples of successful reclamation projects:

  • One mining company in Ventura County reclaimed its mining pit to a strawberry field.

  • A gravel extraction area at Mississippi Bar in Sacramento County was returned to a riparian (water) wildlife habitat.

  • An aggregate mine on agricultural land in Yolo County operates in four phases. The intent is that not more than 95 acres is out of agricultural production at any time during the project’s life.

  • Other mined lands have been reclaimed to grazing and production of crops such as alfalfa, corn, grapes and tomatoes.

The Act’s requirements apply to anyone, including government agencies, engaged in surface mining operations in California (including those on federally managed lands) which disturb more than one acre or remove more than 1,000 cubic yards of material. This includes, but is not limited to: prospecting and exploratory activities, dredging and quarrying, streambed skimming, borrow pitting, and the stockpiling of mined materials.