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The actions of the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) are directed by The Federal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977 (Mine Act), as amended (30 U.S.C. § 801 et seq.). The Mine Act can be found on MSHA’s web page at http://www.msha.gov/REGS/ACT/ACTTC.HTM. Impoundments, retention dams, and tailings ponds are included in the definition of a “coal or other mine” in Section 3(h)(1) of the Mine Act.

MSHA’s safety standards and regulations, including those on dam safety, are in Title 30 of the Code of Federal Regulations (30 C.F.R.). Specifically, the safety and health standards for surface metal and nonmetal mines pertaining to retaining dams are in 30 C.F.R. Part 56, Subpart S; and the safety and health standards for underground metal and nonmetal mines pertaining to retaining dams are in 30 C.F.R. Part 57, Subpart S.

METAL and NONMETAL ("Retaining dams")

  • 56.20010 – Retaining dams. (surface mine operations)
  • 56.2 – Definitions.
  • 57.20010 – Retaining dams. (underground mine operations)
  • 57.2 – Definitions.
  • In addition, the safety standards for surface coal mines and surface work areas of underground coal mines pertaining to water, sediment, or slurry impoundments and impounding structures are in 30 CFR Part 77, Subpart C.

    COAL ("Water, sediment, or slurry impoundments and impounding structures")

  • 77.216 – General.
  • 77.216-1 – Identification.
  • 77.216-2 – Minimum plan requirements; changes or modifications; certifications.
  • 77.216-3 – Inspection requirements; correction of hazards; program requirements.
  • 77.216-4 – Reporting requirements; certification.
  • 77.216-5 – Abandonment.
  • 77.217 – Definitions.
  • Information Related to Standards

  • Program Policy Manual, Volume 5 - Coal Mines, Sections 77.216 and 77.216-3
  • Coal Mine Safety and Health

  • PH13-V-1 - Coal Mine Safety and Health General Inspection Procedures Handbook
  • Coal Mine Impoundment Inspection and Plan Review Handbook
  • Engineering and Design Manual for Coal Refuse Disposal Facilities
  • Metal and Nonmetal Mine Safety and Health

  • PH13-IV-1 – General Inspection Procedures
  • PIL12-IV-03- Reissue of I10-V-11 -Procedures for Informing State Agencies When Dams are No Longer Subject to MSHA Jurisdiction



  • Tailings Dam