[Federal Register: June 17, 2008 (Volume 73, Number 117)]
[Proposed Rules]               
[Page 34239-34240]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]
[DOCID:fr17jn08-16]                         

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DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE

Forest Service

36 CFR Parts 223, 228, 261, 292, and 293

 
Regulatory Flexibility Act Assessment--Locatable Minerals 
Operations

AGENCY: Forest Service, USDA.

ACTION: Notice of proposed rulemaking; request for comment.

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SUMMARY: The Forest Service published in the Federal Register a 
proposed rule to revise the regulations for locatable minerals 
operations conducted on National Forest System lands. The proposed rule 
considered impacts to small entities under Executive Order 13272 and 
the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act of 1996 
(SBREFA). However, the proposed rule did not make available nor seek 
comment on the small entities flexibility assessment. This notice 
allows for review and seeks comment on the flexibility assessment.

DATES: Comments must be received, in writing, on or before July 17, 
2008.

ADDRESSES: Send written comments to Forest Service, USDA, Attn: 
Director, Minerals and Geology Management (MGM) Staff, (2810), Mail 
Stop 1126, Washington, DC 20250-1125; by electronic mail to 
36cfr228a@fs.fed.us; by fax to (703) 605-1575. If comments are sent by 
electronic mail or by fax, the public is requested not to send 
duplicate written comments via regular mail. The public may inspect 
comments received on the proposed rule in the Office of the Director, 
MGM Staff, 5th Floor, Rosslyn Plaza Central, 1601 North Kent Street, 
Arlington, Virginia, on business days between the hours of 8:30 a.m. 
and 4 p.m. Those wishing to inspect comments are encouraged to call 
ahead at (703) 605-4646 to facilitate entry into the building.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Mike Doran, Minerals and Geology 
Management Staff, (208) 373-4132. Individuals who use telecommunication 
devices for the deaf (TDD) may call the Federal Information Relay 
Service (FIRS) at 1-800-877-8339 between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m., Eastern 
Standard Time, Monday through Friday.
    Individuals who use telecommunication devices for the deaf (TDD) 
may call the Federal Information Relay Service (FIRS) at 1-800-877-8339 
between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m., Eastern Standard Time, Monday through 
Friday.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The assessment follows.

Description of Small Entities Affected

    The proposed rule (73 FR 15694, Mar. 25, 2008) would directly 
affect all exploration and mining companies. There are currently 
approximately 1,800 exploration and mining companies operating on the 
National Forests. Seventy-five percent of these companies are 
considered small business with less than 500 employees. The size of 
these 1,260 small businesses range from one person to 499 employees. 
Total production ranges from zero production for exploration companies 
to few thousand dollars per year for very small mining to several 
million dollars per year for the larger mining companies. Most mining 
companies require at least 20-25 percent profit to survive mining's 
volatile market.

Economic Impacts on Small Entities

    Increased operating costs from the proposed rule to small 
exploration and mining companies is expected to be insignificant since 
the small entities are already working under the proposed rule through 
current direction and policy spelled out in the Forest Service manual 
and handbooks. The proposed rule codifies much of the existing 
direction and policy.
    The most direct costs from the proposed regulations will come from 
how much time and money is spent on filling out and filing the required 
notice of intent, cessation of operations, or an operating plan. Table 
1 records the 2007 annualized burden costs for an operator.
    The United States Geological Survey (USGS) published earnings 
information pertaining to locatable mineral operations. That 
information can be found in the Mineral Commodity Summaries 2007. The 
USGS disclosed that the estimated ``Average weekly earnings of 
production workers'' for metal mining in 2006 was $979. Based on 40 
hours a week and on an 8-hour workday, the average hourly salary in the 
locatable mineral arena is about $24.48. This rate is reflected in 
Table 1.

                                                     Table 1.--2007 Annualized Burden Costs
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                                                                                                                            Annualized
                 Information collection                      Number of       Response       Hour burden    Total burden   costs @$24.48/     Cost per
                                                            respondents      frequency    per collection       hours           hour         respondent
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Plan of operations......................................             319               1              12           3,828         $93,709         $293.76
Notice of intent........................................           1,396               1               2           2,792          20,318           14.55
Cessation of operations.................................               3               1               1               3              73           24.33
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    Each year the Forest Service surveys the regional offices to get an 
estimate of how many Plans of Operations and Notices of Intents were 
received. The latest figures indicate that 320 Plans of Operations and 
415 Notices of Intent were received in 2007. All of these plans and 
notices came from small entities.
    Total estimated 2007 costs for small entities to comply with the 
information collection was $114,100. The estimated additional 
information collection costs for the proposed bonded notice are 
reflected in Table 2.

[[Page 34240]]



                                           Table 2.--2007 Annualized Burden Costs for a Bonded Notice
                                                                     (Proposed Rule)
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                                                                                                                           Annualized
              Information collection                   Number of         Response     Hour burden per    Total burden    costs @$24.48/      Cost per
                                                      respondents       frequency        collection         hours             hour          respondent
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Bonded notice.....................................             100                1                6              600          $14,688          $146.88
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    The field units provided an initial estimate of 100 exploration and 
mining companies that would use the bonded notice instead of a plan of 
operation. A six hour burden per bonded notice was assumed giving a 
total of 600 burden hours. Annualized costs to the small entities would 
be $14,688.
    The economic impact on an individual respondent would be $114,100 + 
$14,688 = $128,788 divided by 1,260 small businesses = $102.21.

Conclusion

    The comments will be addressed in the final rule for locatable 
minerals operations. The Forest Service has determined that the 
proposed rule will have an impact on a substantial number of small 
businesses. However, the economic impact of the proposed rule will not 
be significant. Under the proposed rule small entities will have the 
option of filing a bonded notice rather than a plan of operation for 
short-term, low impact exploration proposals rather the longer plan of 
operations requiring more analysis and a longer approval time. The 
Forest Service expects the major impact from the proposed rule to be a 
reduction of paperwork burden for the small entities which should be 
beneficial to small exploration and mining companies.
    The Forest Service hereby certifies that the proposed rule will not 
have significant economic impact on a substantial number of small 
entities as defined by SBRFEA.

    Dated: June 9, 2008.
Charles L. Myers,
Associate Deputy Chief, National Forest System.
[FR Doc. E8-13446 Filed 6-16-08; 8:45 am]

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