(1) The land shall be leased in as compact bodies as the form and areas of the tract held by the state and offered for lease will permit. No lease may embrace noncontiguous subdivisions of lands unless such subdivisions are within an area comprising not more than one square mile.
(2) No state coal lease may be issued until the coal resources and the surface of the tract to be leased have been evaluated as provided for in 77-3-312, MCA. No coal lease may be issued for less than the fair market value of the coal included under the lease.
(3) Tracts may be offered for lease pursuant to an application submitted by a qualified lessee, or by the department of its own volition.
(4) An application to have a tract offered for lease may be made at any time during the year on a form provided by the department:
(a) such application shall contain the information called for therein, including an adequate and sufficient description of the lands sought to be leased; and
(b) such application shall be accompanied by a $50.00 application fee. Applications not accompanied by the application fee will not be considered.
(5) Where more than one application is filed on any one tract, the department shall notify each person submitting an application subsequent to the first qualified application that there is a prior application for that tract. All subsequent application fees shall be returned. This is the only instance in which the application fee may be refunded.
(6) When sufficient applications have been received to warrant a sale, or at the director's discretion, a lease sale will be announced.
(a) Notice of a lease sale shall be posted on the department's web site and published in a trade journal of general circulation in the coal mining industry or in the major newspapers of general circulation within Montana each week for four weeks preceding the date of sale. The notice shall identify the county or counties within which tracts are being offered for lease, state the date of the lease sale, provide instructions on how to obtain detailed information from the department on the specific tracts to be offered, and the bidding requirements and procedures.
(b) The department shall maintain a master mailing list of prospective coal lessees who request, in writing, that their names be placed on such list; and concurrently with the publication of the notice of sale in the newspapers or trade journal, the board shall mail or e-mail to each addressee on the master mailing list a copy of the notice of sale. However, such mailing shall not be deemed a legal prerequisite to a valid sale. Furthermore, the board shall have no liability to any person who may be inadvertently omitted in the mailing of such additional notices.
(c) Sales of state coal leases will be by competitive bidding. The board may call for bids on the percentage of royalty to be paid by the lessee, on a first year cash bonus to be paid by the lessee, or both; but unless the sales notices state that bids on the percentage of royalty will be called for on particular leases, all leases will be sold by bidding on the first year bonus alone.
(7) The board may require bidding to be by submission of written sealed bids, by oral bidding, or by a combination of both. When sealed bids are required, the notices of sale will so state as to particular leases and will designate a date by which bids must be submitted. Where the sales notices do not state otherwise, all bidding will be oral.
(8) Subject to the board's right to reject any and all bids:
(a) when bidding is on a cash bonus basis, the lease will be awarded to the qualified applicant who submits a bid of the highest cash amount per acre;
(b) when bidding is on a percentage of royalty basis, the lease will be awarded to the qualified bidder who submits a bid of the largest percentage of royalty to be paid. No bid of less than ten percent of the f.o.b. price of the coal prepared for shipment excluding that amount charged by the seller to pay taxes on production will be accepted; and
(c) when bidding is on a cash bonus and percentage of royalty basis the board will determine which bid is to the best advantage of the state and award the lease accordingly.
(9) When sealed bids have been required and there is a tie for high bid, the highest bidder will be determined by oral auction among the tied bidders. If no oral bid is offered which is higher than the sealed bids, the highest bidder will be determined by lot. If no bid is made on a tract offered for lease, no lease will be awarded for that tract.
(10) The department may require a bid deposit in any amount it may determine, up to ten percent of the appraised value of the coal offered for lease under any tract. When such a deposit is to be required, notice of the requirement shall be given in the notice of the lease sale.
(11) When bidding is by submission of sealed bids and a bid deposit is required the deposit shall accompany the bid. When bidding is oral and a bid deposit is required, the deposit must be submitted prior to the opening of bidding.
(12) An applicant or successful bidder shall pay a $25.00 administrative fee for issuance of any coal lease.