Nonmetallic mining is a widespread activity in Wisconsin. The variety of geologic environments provides for a diverse industry. An estimated 2,000 mines provide aggregate for construction, sand, gravel and crushed stone (limestone and dolomite) for road building and maintenance as well as for agricultural use as lime. A smaller number of sites provide dimension stone for monuments, volcanic andesite for shingles, peat for horticulture and landscaping, industrial sand for export out-of-state for the oil industry and a considerable variety of materials for other uses.

Chapter 295, Wisconsin Statutes, enabled the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to establish rules, Chapter NR 135, Wis. Adm. Code, to implement a nonmetallic mining reclamation program. The overall goal of NR 135 is to provide a framework for statewide regulation of nonmetallic mining reclamation. The rule does this by establishing uniform reclamation standards and setting up a locally administered reclamation permit program.

In order to facilitate this process the DNR published a model ordinance for use/adoption by counties and interested municipal governments. The ordinance established a reclamation program that issues reclamation permits in order to ensure compliance with the uniform reclamation standards contained in the rule. All counties were required to adopt an ordinance by June 1, 2001. Cities, towns, and villages may choose to adopt an ordinance and administer a program within their jurisdiction at any time.

As of September 1, 2004, all operations that continued to mine after the effective date of the NR 135 program should now have approved reclamation plans. Any new operation must be approved prior to commencing operations. The purpose of the reclamation plan is to achieve acceptable final site reclamation to an approved post-mining land use in compliance with the uniform reclamation standards. The reclamation standards address environmental protection measures including topsoil salvage and storage, surface and groundwater protection, and contemporaneous reclamation to minimize the acreage exposed to wind and water erosion.

Chapter NR 135 also requires that mine operators submit annual fees, as specified by the local regulatory authority, and an acceptable financial assurance instrument to ensure completion of the reclamation plan.

In summary, reclamation of nonmetallic mines according to approved plans will achieve approved post-mining land uses. This results in environmental protection, stable non-eroding sites, productive end land uses and potential to enhance habitat and increase land values and tax revenues.