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?

Specific environmental requirements may be found in the Mining Code and in a contractual annex to exploration licences and mining titles dealing with environmental impact and recovery. The annex, in particular, covers such areas as environmental impact, preservation, recovery and rehabilitation (the precise regime in each case depending on the scope of the mineral rights awarded). The general framework within which such provisions operate is derived from environmental statutes, most significantly the following:

  • the General Environmental Law;
  • the Decree on Environmental Impact Assessment;
  • the Decree on Environmental Licensing; and
  • the Decree on Environmental Audits.

The national and regional sector strategy and programmes in the fields of environment and sustainable development, as well as the international instruments to which Angola has subscribed, including:

  • the Rio Convention on Biodiversity 1992;
  • the Montreal Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety to the Convention on Biological Diversity 2003;
  • Agenda 21; and
  • the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal 1989.

The relevant regulatory body is the Ministry of Environment.

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?

Projects that by their nature, dimension or location bear upon the environmental and social balance and harmony shall be subject to environmental impact assessment (EIA), which shall be made an integral part of the mineral investment contract. Operations in the mining phase are subject to such requirement.

As regards exploration, evaluation and research activities, much will depend on the activities in each case. Where such research work includes, for instance, the execution of trenches, pits, holes, drilling or perforations, and any work associated with it, the impact upon the environment may be such that an EIA may become legally necessary before the mining phase is reached.

The granting of environmental licences is subject to a fee.

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 holder of the exploration licence or mining title is liable for any damages caused by geological and mining activities. Penalties may be assessed and the holder is further subject to the obligation to pay damages, regardless of contractual provisions.

Generally, in the mandatory EIA, it is already set forth how the closure of the project will be handled from an environmental standpoint as well as the environmental financial charges and the relevant financial guarantee.

Mining titles frequently focus on the actions necessary for recovery and rehabilitation purposes (eg, dismantling and removing facilities and infrastructure, reforestation, social rehabilitation and watercourse restoration).

Holders of mineral rights for exploration or mining of mineral resources at an industrial scale are required to post a bond to guarantee compliance with the contractual obligations (including closure and remediation commitments). The bond for the reconnaissance, exploration, evaluation and appraisal stage shall be of up to 2 per cent of the investment amount, and at the mining stage of up to 4 per cent.

Holders of mineral rights are further required to set up a legal reserve for purposes of mine closing and environmental restoration, of an amount corresponding to 5 per cent of the investment.

Restrictions on building tailings or waste dams

What are the restrictions for building tailings or waste dams?

The EIA must take contain numerous information concerning:

  • a waste management plan (along with the assessment of the effects of the project on the environment);
  • the social impact of the projects;
  • the environmental management plan;
  • the environmental monitoring programme;
  • the environmental audits, as well as the respective environmental reports;
  • the environmental restoration programmes;
  • the site abandonment plan;
  • the environmental financial charges;
  • the financial guarantee for the environmental charges;
  • the plans for water usage;
  • the waste management plans; and
  • the control of hazardous substances.

Moreover, holders of mineral rights are especially required:

  • to comply with the obligations deriving from the environmental impact study and the environmental management plan, on the terms established therein;
  • to take the measures necessary to reduce the formation and propagation of dust, waste and radiation in mining areas and surrounding areas;
  • to prevent or eliminate the contamination of waters and soil, using appropriate means to that end;
  • not to reduce or in any other way prejudice the normal water supply to populations;
  • to carry out mineral operations so as to minimise damage to the soil;
  • to reduce the impact of noise and vibrations to acceptable levels as determined by the relevant authorities, when using explosives in the vicinity of settlements;
  • not to discharge in the sea, water currents and lagoons contaminant waste which is harmful to human health, wildlife and flora; and
  • to inform the authorities of any occurrence which has caused or may cause environmental damage.

The Mining Code contains special rules for the protection of water resources (ie, in the mining process) mineral operators must adopt the following measures for protection of water resources:

  • build decanting basins for sediments extracted during the ore processing stage to avoid polluting and silting rivers and lagoons;
  • create water recycling circuits to allow the reuse of water during the various mineral production stages;
  • perform periodic water analysis at numerous river locations within the concession allowing for quality control; and
  • keep updated records of information relating to the first three points above.

Finally, a technical manager must exist in each mining concession, who is entrusted with the technical responsibility for the safety of the mine under his or her supervision, for the technical conditions of mining and for the proper execution of the mining plan.