(a) Upon the receipt of a complete surface-mining application or significant revision or renewal thereof, including public notification and an opportunity for a public hearing, the director shall grant, require revision of, or deny the application for a permit within sixty days and notify the applicant in writing of the decision. The applicant for a permit, or revision of a permit, has the burden of establishing that the application is in compliance with all the requirements of this article and the rules promulgated hereunder.
(b) No permit or significant revision of a permit may be approved unless the applicant affirmatively demonstrates and the director finds in writing on the basis of the information set forth in the application or from information otherwise available which shall be documented in the approval and made available to the applicant that:
(1) The permit application is accurate and complete and that all the requirements of this article and rules thereunder have been complied with;
(2) The applicant has demonstrated that reclamation as required by this article can be accomplished under the reclamation plan contained in the permit application;
(3) The assessment of the probable cumulative impact of all anticipated mining in the area on the hydrologic balance, as specified in section nine of this article, has been made by the director and the proposed operation has been designed to prevent material damage to the hydrologic balance outside the permit area;
(4) The area proposed to be mined is not included within an area designated unsuitable for surface-mining pursuant to section twenty-two of this article or is not within an area under administrative study by the director for such designation; and
(5) In cases where the private mineral estate has been severed from the private surface estate, the applicant has submitted: (A) The written consent of the surface owner to the extraction of coal by surface-mining; or (B) a conveyance that expressly grants or reserves the right to extract the coal by surface-mining; or (C) if the conveyance does not expressly grant the right to extract coal by surface-mining, the surface subsurface legal relationship shall be determined in accordance with applicable law: Provided, That nothing in this article shall be construed to authorize the director to adjudicate property rights disputes.
(c) Where information available to the division indicates that any surface-mining operation owned or controlled by the applicant is currently in violation of this article or other environmental laws or rules, the permit may not be issued until the applicant submits proof that such violation has been corrected or is in the process of being corrected to the satisfaction of the director or the department or agency which has jurisdiction over the violation, and no permit may be issued to any applicant after a finding by the director, after an opportunity for hearing, that the applicant or the operator specified in the application controls or has controlled mining operations with a demonstrated pattern of willful violations of this article or of other state or federal programs implementing the federal Surface-Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977, as amended, of such nature and duration with such irreparable damage to the environment as to indicate an intent not to comply with the provisions of this article or the federal Surface-Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977, as amended: Provided, That if the director finds that the applicant is or has been affiliated with, or managed or controlled by, or is or has been under the common control of, other than as an employee, a person who has had a surface-mining permit revoked or bond or other security forfeited for failure to reclaim lands as required by the laws of this state, he or she may not issue a permit to the applicant: Provided, however, That subject to the discretion of the director and based upon a petition for reinstatement, permits may be issued to any applicant if: (1) After the revocation or forfeiture, the operator whose permit has been revoked or bond forfeited has paid into the special reclamation fund any additional sum of money determined by the director to be adequate to reclaim the disturbed area; (2) the violations which resulted in the revocation or forfeiture have not caused irreparable damage to the environment; and (3) the director is satisfied that the petitioner will comply with this article.
(d)(1) In addition to finding the application in compliance with subsection (b) of this section, if the area proposed to be mined contains prime farmland, the director may, pursuant to rules promulgated hereunder, grant a permit to mine on prime farmland if the operator affirmatively demonstrates that the operator has the technological capability to restore such mined area, within a reasonable time, to equivalent or higher levels of yield as nonmined prime farmland in the surrounding area under equivalent levels of management, and can meet the soil reconstruction standards in subdivision (7), subsection (b), section thirteen of this article. Except for compliance with subsection (b) of this section, the requirements of this subdivision apply to all permits issued after August 3, 1977.
(2) Nothing in this subsection applies to any permit issued prior to August 3, 1977, or to any revisions or renewals thereof, or to any existing surface-mining operations for which a permit was issued prior to said date.
(e) If the director finds that the overburden on any part of the area of land described in the application for a permit is such that experience in the state with a similar type of operation upon land with similar overburden shows that one or more of the following conditions cannot feasibly be prevented: (1) Substantial deposition of sediment in stream beds; (2) landslides; or (3) acid-water pollution, the director may delete such part of the land described in the application upon which such overburden exists.
(f) The prohibition of subsection (c) of this section may not apply to a permit application due to any violation resulting from an unanticipated event or condition at a surface coal mine eligible for remining under a permit held by the applicant.