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 main act in the area of environmental protection is the Law on Environmental Protection No. 754-XII, dated 9 December 1992, as amended, which sets out the rights and duties of individuals and legal entities, provides for the regulation of, and control over, environmental protection and provides a general framework for environmental impact assessment and environmental monitoring. In addition, it provides requirements for the use of radioactive materials, atomic energy and dangerous chemical substances. Other key acts regulating environmental protection are as follows:

  • the Land Code;
  • the Law on Radiation Safety No. 120-II, dated 31 August 2000, as amended;
  • the Law on Waste No. 362-II, dated 5 April 2002, as amended;
  • the Law on Environmental Assessment No. 73-II, dated 25 May 2000;
  • the Law on Atmospheric Air Protection No. 353-I, dated 27 December 1996;
  • the Law on Water and Water Use No. 837-XII, dated 6 May 1993, as amended; and
  • the Law on Subsoil No. 444-II, dated 13 December 2002.

The principal regulatory bodies in these areas are the Environmental Protection Committee and the Industrial Safety Inspectorate.

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?

There are several types of environmental licences and permits subsoil users must obtain before carrying out their activities. The Law on Environmental Assessment No. 73-II requires subsoil users, prior to financing works on construction of mining projects, to obtain a conclusion on environmental assessment from the specialised department of the Environment Protection Committee as to compliance of the intended activity with ecological requirements and that measures undertaken by the subsoil user on environmental safety ensure the sufficiency and feasibility of efficient use of mineral resources. The subsoil users must also obtain permits for the following:

  • discharging pollutants into the environment;
  • water consumption;
  • setting air pollution limits; and
  • waste disposal.

Obtaining a conclusion on environmental assessment and all other required environmental permits and licences may take up to one month, and on sophisticated projects, up to three months.

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 Subsoil Law and Regulation PP-649 require that subsoil users conduct closure and remediation. The closure and remediation terms and conditions are usually different, and depend on certain environmental, operational and other external circumstances of each mining project. Therefore, the Subsoil Law and Regulation PP-649 only set out general rules on closure and remediation and require that such specific provisions be included in the mining licences.

No performance bonds, guarantees or other financial assurances are required of a subsoil user upon closure of a mining project. Pursuant to the general rules established by the Subsoil Law, subsoil users must conduct closure and remediation at their own expense, except, for instance, where mining rights are prematurely terminated by the government owing to an emergency situation. In the past, mining companies were required to establish special reserve funds for mine reclamation purposes.

Restrictions on building tailings or waste dams

What are the restrictions for building tailings or waste dams?

Construction and exploitation of tailings or waste dams for the purposes of storing and burying of mining wastes is carried out based on a licence issued by the Environment Protection Committee by way of direct negotiations of licence applicant with this agency. The person in charge of the operation and management of waste dams shall have relevant technical qualification and be certified by the Industrial Safety Inspectorate to operate and manage waste dams.

The Environmental Protection Committee and the Industrial Safety Inspectorate, as principal controlling bodies of safe exploitation of waste dams, are entitled to carry out ad hoc and scheduled inspections of the facilities mining companies exploiting waste dams. Inspections are usually carried out once a month.

Mining companies are responsible for safe exploitation of waste dams and are obliged to implement emergency response procedures to prevent damage to people, animals and the environment in the event of dam failure.