Environment

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 Swedish Environmental Code (No. 808 of 1998) is the principal environmental law in Sweden. To conduct mining operations, both an exploitation concession and a permit under the Environmental Code must be acquired. With respect to mining operations, permits under the Environmental Code are granted by the Land and Environmental Court.

If exploration work could have a significant impact on the environment, it entails certain investigations of the environmental aspects according to the Environmental Code. The Mining Inspectorate also hears applications for exploration permits and exploitation concessions, in consultation with the County Administrative Board, which examines whether the site is acceptable from an environmental point of view and not just from the Minerals Act (No. 45 of 1991). The Environmental Code is also applicable in matters concerning the granting of an exploitation concession, which means that an environmental impact assessment (EIA) must be appended to an application for a concession.

Supervision of compliance with the environmental conditions is usually carried out by the County Administrative Board and by the municipality’s Environment Health Board.

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 granting of a permit for mining operations under the Environmental Code is governed by the same rules as other business operations with an environmental impact. The details for the permit under the Environmental Code, such as noise levels, storage sites and damming up water deposits, are decided during the permit process carried out by the Land and Environmental Court. Supervision of compliance with the environmental conditions imposed is usually carried out by the County Administrative Board and by the municipality’s Environment Health Board.

The first step to acquiring a permit is the consultation process. This takes place between the company wishing to engage in activities with an environmental impact and parties environmentally affected by the operations, as well as agencies and organisations concerned with environmental issues. The purpose is to hear from all concerned parties so that their interests can be considered when preparing the EIA.

After the consultation, the EIA has to be finalised. Once the consultation and EIA have been carried out, the application for a permit under the Environmental Code can be submitted to the Land and Environmental Court. The Land and Environmental Court determines whether the information presented in the consultation and environmental assessment phases is detailed enough to proceed with a ruling. During the initial phase of the proceedings, any affected parties may submit supplements to the application. The complete information will then be sent for review and comments to any affected party. Before the main hearing begins, the applicant will have the opportunity to address any comments made during the consultation process.

The complete process for obtaining a permit under the Environmental Code takes approximately three to five years depending on the size of the operation and where it is to be carried out.

Sustainability

Do government agencies or other institutions in your jurisdiction provide incentives or publish environmental and social governance (ESG) guidelines for green projects?

On 1 January 2018, a new climate law (No. 2017 of 720) was introduced that requires the present and future governments to govern according to the environmental goals of Sweden and to report on any progress made. On 17 December 2019, the Swedish government presented the first climate policy action plan, outlining how work concerning climate policy should be conducted during the mandate period, including both decided and planned measures that contribute to achieving national and global climate goals.

The action plan includes a review of all relevant legislation and further measures in emissions sectors with a particular focus on the transport sector, which is likely to have an impact on the mining industry.

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 closure and remediation process is handled in the Environmental Code permit process through the details for the permit. A security will have to be provided to cover for potential damage to the environment and closure of the mining operations. All types of security are approved as long as they are satisfactory for their purpose.

Restrictions on building tailings or waste dams

What are the restrictions for building tailings or waste dams?

Certain requirements for the operator in charge of dam maintenance are listed in the Ordinance on Dam Safety (No. 214 of 2014). A tailings or waste dam typically needs a water operation permit according to the Environmental Code and the main principle being that the owner of the tailings or waste dam is responsible for its maintenance. The Ordinance on Dam Safety requires the operator in charge of maintenance to produce an impact assessment and propose a classification based on the impact that may potentially be caused by a dam failure. Further, the operator in charge of maintenance must have a safety management system concerning the methods, routines and instructions needed for:

  • organisation, areas of responsibility and qualifications for personnel working with dam safety;
  • identification and assessment of risks for major accidents;
  • operations, permit supervision and maintenance;
  • routines for changes in the operations;
  • planning for emergency situations; and
  • audits and reviews.

 

High-risk installations are subject to provisions with more severe requirements in the Ordinance on Mining Waste (No. 319 of 2013). The operator in charge of maintenance must make a complete assessment of the dam’s safety and the operational organisation every 10 years. The operator is also obligated to produce yearly safety reports to the supervising authority.