(1) Any person whose interests are or may be adversely affected by the decision on an application submitted pursuant to ARM 17.24.401(1) or the officer or head of any federal, state or local government agency or authority may, in writing, request that the department hold an informal conference on that application. The request must:
(a) briefly summarize the issues to be raised by the requestor at the conference;
(b) state whether the requestor desires to have the conference conducted in the locality of the proposed activity; and
(c) be filed with the department not later than 30 days after the last publication of the newspaper advertisement placed by the applicant under ARM 17.24.401(3).
(2) Except as provided in (3), if an informal conference is requested in accordance with this rule, the department shall hold an informal conference within 30 days following the receipt of the request. The informal conference shall be conducted according to the following:
(a) If requested under (1)(b) it must be held in the locality of the proposed activity.
(b) The department shall advertise the date, time, and location of the informal conference in a newspaper of general circulation in the locality of the proposed activity at least two consecutive weeks prior to the scheduled conference.
(c) If requested, in writing, by a conference requestor in a reasonable time prior to the conference, the department may arrange with the applicant to grant parties to the conference access to the proposed mining area for the purpose of gathering information relevant to the conference.
(d) The conference must be conducted by a representative of the department, who may accept oral or written statements and any other relevant information from any party to the conference. An electronic or stenographic record must be made of the conference proceeding, unless waived by all the parties. The record must be maintained and shall be accessible to the parties of the conference until final release of the applicant's performance bond.
(3) If all parties requesting the informal conference stipulate before the informal conference to withdraw their request, the informal conference need not be held.
(4) The department shall notify the applicant and all parties to the informal conference of its decisions and the reasons therefor within 60 days of the informal conference.