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 principal environmental laws applicable in Mexico to the mining industry are the following:

  • the General Law of Environmental Equilibrium and Environmental Protection;
  • the General Law for the Prevention and Management of Waste;
  • the General Law on Climate Change;
  • the General Law of Sustainable Forestry Development;
  • regulations of the General Law of Environmental Equilibrium and Environmental Protection regarding environmental impact assessments;
  • Regulations of Natural Protected Areas; and
  • Mexican Official Norms (NOMS) related to environmental matters: NOM 120, NOM 141, NOM 147, NOM 155, NOM 157 and NOM 159, among others.

The principal environmental regulatory bodies are as follows:

  • the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources (SEMARNAT); and
  • the Federal Environmental Prosecutor.
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?

Exploration, exploitation and processing of minerals require the filing of an environmental impact assessment, as well as the filing of a preventive report in some cases.

Applicants must notify the environmental authority of actions that seek to make it to determine whether the filing of an environmental impact assessment is required, or may be performed without authorisation.

The authorisation of the preventive report for the exploration phase should be granted within 20 business days, and for the land use change on forest land the authorisation should be granted within 60 business days.

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?

Remediation works are performed in Mexico in cases of soil contamination. Otherwise, a refurbishing process must be performed. Those responsible for activities that involve the generation and management of hazardous materials and waste that cause contamination of sites are required to carry out remediation works.

If hazardous substances considered highly risky are used during the exploitation phase, it is necessary to have environmental risk insurance that will be required in the corresponding resolution of the environmental impact assessment as a condition to starting operating activities. Three insurance terms or guarantees may be required, which are as follows:

  • if hazardous substances are used;
  • if hazardous waste is generated; and
  • for the fulfilment of obligations contained in the resolutions of the environmental impact authorisation.
Restrictions on building tailings or waste dams

What are the restrictions for building tailings or waste dams?

Regarding restrictions for building tailings or waste dams, there is a Mexican Official Standard, NOM-141-SEMARNAT-2003, which establishes the procedure for characterising the tailings, as well as the specifications and criteria for the characterisation and preparation site, project, construction, operation and post-operation of tailings dams. There are no qualifications necessary for the person in charge of operation and management of dam waste.

These facilities are inspected by authorities quite often; there are no specific periods for such inspections.

There is an obligation to get a permit from the authority under the Programme for the Prevention of Accidents; in certain cases, to submit a risk assessment, to register the Hazardous Waste Management Plan, to have environmental insurance and to provide notice to the authority in case of emergencies, accidents or loss of hazardous waste.

There are no specific requirements for emergency drills with the local community.

The Federal Law of Environmental Responsibility provides that the main responsibility for rescuing people and remediation, damages’ costs and penalties rests with the mining company involved in such events.