The DMLR was created in 1966, with the enactment by the Virginia General Assembly of reclamation laws and regulations governing the coal mine industry. Numerous amendments to the state coal surface mine law through 1974, broadened the authority and duties of the Division.
In 1977, Congress enacted the Federal Surface Control and Reclamation Act (Public Law 95-87). The federal coal surface mining law established extensive new requirements that impacted the industry, coal mining states, and their regulatory agencies nationwide. Using a provision of the Act, which enables coal mining states to establish their own regulatory programs, Virginia passed its own law (Virginia Coal Surface Mining Control Reclamation Act, Chapter 19, Title 45.1 of the Code) in 1979, which provided for the adoption of regulations comparable with Public Law 95-87.
Following the approval of Virginia's permanent regulatory program by the Federal Office of Surface Mining and Reclamation Enforcement (OSMRE) in 1981, the state regained primary authority for the enforcement of coal surface mining and reclamation requirements. In states with approved regulatory programs, the OSMRE's role changes from inspection and enforcement to one of oversight and coordination with state programs to ensure they meet the intent of the Federal Act.