Principal applicable environmental laws

What are the principal environmental laws applicable to the mining industry? What are the principal regulatory bodies that administer those laws?

The relevant environmental, health and safety laws applying to the mining industry are as follows:

  • a general environmental protection law;
  • explosives regulations;
  • technical regulations for flammable liquids;
  • the Greenland Building Regulations; and
  • the Law on Archaeological Sites and Artefacts.

Greenland has a ‘one-door’ system administering the country’s mineral resources, handled by the MLSA as the authoritative body for all administration. Thus, the mineral resources industry only has to apply to the MLSA to obtain the necessary permissions, ensuring efficient administration of mineral resources.

Environmental review and permitting process

What is the environmental review and permitting process for a mining project? How long does it normally take to obtain the necessary permits?

The Mineral Resources Act contains principles and rules for the protection of the environment and social sustainability. By the application and administration of the provisions on protection of the environment, including prevention, reduction and control of pollution, great emphasis is placed on what is obtainable by use of the ‘best available techniques’ for the activities.

Also, specific rules on climate and nature protection have been laid down. The Greenlandic government may issue specific regulations on climate and nature protection, including provisions on the application of national or international rules and agreements or guidelines concerning climate and environmental protection.

Prior to commencement of exploitation and development activities, a plan for the activities, including organisation of the production and the production installations, must be approved by the Greenlandic government. In this connection an environmental impact assessment (EIA) report must be prepared. The purpose of an EIA is to identify, predict and communicate potential environmental impacts of a proposed mining project in all its phases from before the commencement of mining to after closure, and to propose measures to address and mitigate these impacts.

If an activity must be assumed to have significant impact on social conditions, a licence for and approval of the activity can be granted only when a social sustainability assessment (SSA) has been made of the performance of the activity and approved by the Greenlandic government. The SSA report must appropriately demonstrate, describe and assess the direct and indirect impacts of the activity on social conditions as well as the interaction between the conditions, mutual impact between the conditions and cumulative effects on the conditions.

Provided that the licensee submits all relevant information with the application for an exploitation licence, it should not take more than approximately three to six months to obtain the necessary permits. However, there are no rules guaranteeing a maximum processing time.

Closure and remediation process

What is the closure and remediation process for a mining project? What performance bonds, guarantees and other financial assurances are required?

The licensee shall, within 12 months from the termination of the activities under the licence, remove all installations, buildings, stored items, etc, in the area that has been established for the activities under the licence, except when the non-removal of these installations has been approved by the MLSA. Further, the licensee shall carry out final clean-up activities in the affected area and remedy any remaining damage to the terrain and vegetation caused by the activities.

If the licensee does not comply with the obligations at the termination of the activities such measures may be carried out at the licensee’s expense and risk.

The MLSA may request that the licensee provides security for the fulfilment of their obligations at termination of the activities. In practice, security for the estimated closure costs is almost always required prior to commencement of development and production.

Restrictions on building tailings or waste dams

What are the restrictions for building tailings or waste dams?

Terms and restrictions for building tailings and waste dams are laid down directly in the licence inclusive of the exploitation plan, closure plans and other plans that are approved by the government, and as such there are no detailed rules in legislation in this respect.