The Minerals and Metals exploration regulatory process in Ireland
There are a number of regulatory steps which apply in Ireland for those seeking to carry on minerals or metals exploration. Licenses are issued and activities are regulated by the Exploration and Mining Division of the Department of Irish Department for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources.
1. Prospecting License
This is typically issued within 6 months of application. The Prospecting License (PL) gives the holder the right to explore for the minerals or metals referred to in the license. Only holders of current licenses are considered for Mining Facilities to develop such minerals within the license area, whether the minerals are State-owned or privately-owned.
A Prospecting License typically covers some 35 sq. km. Prospecting Licenses are issued for six years for specified minerals and are renewable. A minimum work programme commitment from the license holder is also required, details of which are agreed with the licensee. Progressively increased work and expenditure commitments are required on renewal. Work reports are required every two years, and are held confidential for six years or until surrender of the license (if earlier).
2. Mining Licenses and Mining Leases
According to the Department it is estimated that about 60% of minerals in the country are owned by the State. However, the exclusive right to work minerals is vested in the Minister under the Minerals Development Act 1979, with the exception of a very small number of mines that were in operation in 1978. Regardless of ownership, therefore, mining requires a permit from the Minister. This may be a State Mining Lease under the Minerals Development Act 1940 for minerals in State ownership. Alternatively a State Mining License under the 1979 Act is needed for privately owned minerals. These two permits are collectively referred to as State Mining Facilities.
The Minister will only accept an application to mine minerals or metals from the holder of a valid Prospecting License or State Mining Facility over the area in question. The application fees are set out in S.I. No. 259 of 1996 – Minerals Development Regulations, 1996. The information and documentation needed to support an application may vary in individual cases and will be confirmed by the Exploration and Mining Division.
State Mining Facilities are generally negotiated on a case by case basis as required by the Minerals Development Act, 1940. Generally the Department insists on conditions requiring prevention of subsidence, compliance with best practice, ensuring full extraction of minerals, proper rehabilitation of the mineral workings and financial terms including royalties. Where relevant, compensation may need to be paid in the case of a working of the minerals of private mineral owners.
It is important to note that there is public consultation before any Mining Leases or Licenses are issued.
3. Additional Authorizations
There are two additional authorizations required before a mine or extraction of a new mineral development can be started. These are:
• An Integrated Pollution Prevention Control License from the Environmental Protection Agency (in almost all cases). An Environmental Impact Statement must accompany applications for developments involving the extraction of minerals or metals under the Minerals Development Acts.
• Planning Permission under the Planning and Development Acts. The consent of the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources is also required to make a valid Planning Application for such minerals.