Legal Alert – Government Proposes Changes to Finnish Mining Legislation
The Government has proposed amendments to the Finnish Mining Act with the aim to reduce the administrative burden on both operators and authorities involved. The proposal puts into practice Prime Minister Juha Sipilä’s Government Programme, as one of its key projects is to simplify regulation and deregulate where regulations are unnecessary.
During the 2011 overall reform of the Finnish mining legislation, the Government assured that revisions to the Mining Act will be made down the road if such measures are found necessary. Now, after almost six years of practical experience on the functionality of the Mining Act and after assessing the publicly requested comments concerning the Mining Act, the Government proposes the following amendments to the Mining Act:
- Deregulating the relinquishment of exploration permits. The relinquishment of exploration permits sought by the permit holders will be carried out through a written notice submitted to the Mining Authority. While the Mining Authority is obligated to give a decision concerning the relinquishment, the legal effects of the notice will take effect immediately upon the reception of the notice.
The relinquishment will be carried out without public hearing, and solely the permit holder will have the right to appeal the Mining Authority’s decision. This will remedy the challenging situations caused when individual landowners have appealed the decisions with an attempt to prolong the validity of exploration permits in order to be able to collect more exploration fees.
- Easing the application procedure and clarifying the order of priority. According to the proposal, an application may be granted priority towards competing applications even without appending documents concerning the Natura assessment or environmental impact assessment (EIA) report to the application. Further, to avoid submitting vague information, applications may be filed without certain information if such information will be included in a subsequent Natura assessment and/or an EIA report filed as a supplement at a later stage.
It is noteworthy that due to the above, the applicant will be obliged to give a detailed account on the timetable in which it intends to supplement the application.
According to the proposal this renewed procedure will enable, for instance, mining permit applicants to secure their priority concerning the area, complete the ongoing exploration work and include the most recent results in their application documents.
- Removing the absolute ten year cap for postponing the expiry of inactive mines. The applicability of this amendment requires that the mining company has gained access to land through ownership or agreements (e.g. land lease) with landowners. This will benefit the resource planning of industrial minerals producers.
- Shortening the waiting periods. The waiting periods (in Finnish so-called karenssiaika) applied to permit applications concerning areas that have previously been exploration and mining areas will be shortened from three years to two.
- Removing the one-kilometre exclusion zone. The exclusion zone surrounding exploration areas, mining areas or gold panning areas currently applied to reservation notifications will be removed.
- Deregulation concerning mining safety permits. Mining safety permit applications will be processed without public hearing (e.g. landowners), and as regards the expansion of existing mines, the mining safety permit is to be sought only if so ordered by the Mining Authority in the mining permit regarding the expansion.
- Reducing the administrative burden concerning mine maps. Updated mine maps are to be submitted to the Mining Authority only upon request and at the latest after the mining activities have terminated.
These proposed amendments would facilitate the activities carried out by exploration and mining operators while still fully respecting the interests and rights of the landowners and stakeholders.
The amendments are planned to take effect on 1 July 2017.
We will continue to closely follow the legislative process of this proposal and provide updates if necessary.