Mining rights and title

State control over mining rights

To what extent does the state control mining rights in your jurisdiction? Can those rights be granted to private parties and to what extent will they have title to minerals in the ground? Are there large areas where the mining rights are held privately or which belong to the owner of the surface rights? Is there a separate legal regime or process for third parties to obtain mining rights in those areas?

All minerals that are covered by the Minerals Act are listed in this act and those not listed belong to the landowner. Minerals of interest for mining are among those listed. The reason for this policy is that landowners in general are considered not to have the required capacity for exploiting mineral resources on their land. The same rules apply to all types of landowners, whether it is the state, private entities or individuals. Exploration permits can be granted for exploration on land (real property) belonging to any type of landowner, both private and public.

Publicly available information and data

What information and data are publicly available to private parties that wish to engage in exploration and other mining activities? Is there an agency which collects mineral assessment reports from private parties? Must private parties file mineral assessment reports? Does the agency or the government conduct geoscience surveys, which become part of the database? Is the database available online?

The SGU collects basic geological data concerning Sweden’s bedrock geology and properties of rock. Information related to prospecting obtained through government surveys and private exploration, is accessible through MINKO. Most information is accessible online where maps can be produced on request for specific purposes and received in digital form or as hard copies. The National Drill Core Archive is located at MINKO and contains over 4,000km of drill cores that can be used for analysis. The results from such analysis have to be submitted to MINKO and will be made public after a period of time.

When an exploration permit is terminated without the granting of an exploitation concession within the exploration area, the permit holder (if they are carrying on exploration work professionally) must submit a summary report within three months.

Acquisition of rights by private parties

What mining rights may private parties acquire? How are these acquired? What obligations does the rights holder have? If exploration or reconnaissance licences are granted, does such tenure give the holder an automatic or preferential right to acquire a mining licence? What are the requirements to convert to a mining licence?

Both exploration and exploitation permits are granted under the Minerals Act to qualified applicants entirely irrespective of who owns the land to be explored or exploited.

An exploration permit is granted for a specific area of land where there is some likelihood of a successful discovery being made. The area covered by the permit must be of a suitable shape and size and no larger than can be explored by the permit holder in an appropriate manner. An exploration permit gives access to land for exploration work that does not harm the environment or prejudice the use of the land and entails a preferential right to an exploitation concession. The rule is such that the party that applies first is given priority and therefore it is required that the first application is complete and will not need to be supplemented at a later time, because this can result in complications for the assessment of which party applied first.

If there is a possibility of the exploration work having a significant impact on the environment, a notice of consultation in accordance with the Environmental Code must be sent to the supervisory authority (the County Administrative Board). Before exploration work begins, the permit holder must prepare a work plan. The plan must contain a description of the work planned, a timetable and an assessment of any impact on private rights and public interests. The plan must be communicated with all landowners and any other affected parties. A work plan enters into force if there are no objections. It will also enter into force if the applicant and the objecting party agree to the contents of a revised plan. If they cannot agree, the matter may be adjudicated by the Mining Inspectorate, who in some cases can also establish conditions for the exploration work.

Before any work may be commenced, the exploring party is obliged to provide security for the compensation of any damage and encroachment of rights that the exploration work might inflict. An applicant for an exploration permit is required to pay an application fee as well as an exploration fee. The amount is decided according to the extent of the area subjected to exploration.

To commence mining activities, an exploitation concession has to be acquired. As a cardinal rule, concessions are valid for 25 years, but can be extended. Further, a concession is valid for a specific area, which is determined on the basis of the shape and extent of the deposit, the purpose of the concession and other circumstances. Concession is granted if the discovered mineral deposit shows a probability of profitable exploitation and if the location and nature of the deposit does not render it inappropriate to grant the requested concession. The Environmental Code is applicable in matters concerning the granting of a concession. The holder of an exploration permit is not entitled to an automatic but rather a preferential right to acquire an exploitation concession.

In order for the holder of an exploration permit to acquire an environmental permit the operation must be subject to a trial in the Land and Environmental Court. This is a process that is separate from the previously explained procedure concerning exploration permit and exploitation concession. The process to acquire an environmental permit is governed by the Environmental Code. The environmental impact of the operation is thereby tried by the court. The court also sets the conditions for the operation in its decision.

Renewal and transfer of mineral licences

What is the regime for the renewal and transfer of mineral licences?

A transfer of an exploration right or a concession can be permitted under the Minerals Act after an application to the permitting authority (the Mining Inspectorate). The permission can be granted if the future licence holder meets the conditions set forth in the Minerals Act.

Transfer of an environmental permit is possible, provided that the new holder is taking over the permitted operation. According to the Ordinance of Environmentally Harmful Operations and Protection of Health (No. 899 of 1998), the new holder must notify the supervisory authority (the County Administrative Board) about the transfer.

Conditions regarding the renewal of mineral licences are described in question 12.

Duration of mining rights

What is the typical duration of mining rights?

An exploration right is valid for a period of three years, and can be prolonged for a maximum of 15 years under special conditions. The conditions for extension gradually become more severe. The conditions for extension concern the likelihood of finding minable minerals and the amount of exploration already conducted. When an exploration permit expires, a new application can be filed for the same exploration area. The new application can be filed no earlier than a year after the previous exploration right has expired, but exceptions can be made from the one-year rule if special conditions apply.

Once a concession is granted it is valid for 25 years. It can be prolonged for 10 years at a time if work is performed on a regular basis in the said area. If work is not performed on a regular basis in the said area, the concession can still be prolonged for an additional period of 10 years if mining is still ongoing, the work performed meets specific criteria set up under the Minerals Act or if it is otherwise motivated by the common interest that the mineral findings should be exploited in an effective manner. The application to prolong a concession should be filed no later than six months before the valid concession expires.

Environmental permits may be time limited or valid for an unlimited time. As the Minerals Act runs in parallel to the Environmental Code, the environmental permit is linked to the restrictions of the exploitation concession even though the environmental permit itself is not explicitly time limited. In practice the permit may be time limited as the operator normally needs to apply for a new environmental permit after a certain time frame has passed in order to meet the requirements of Chapter 2 of the Environmental Code (eg, meeting the standards of using the best available technology). A renewal of the environmental permit in this sense is treated as a new application.

The Minerals Act states that an exploration permit or an exploitation concession can be revoked if the holder does not fulfil their obligations in accordance with the provisions of the Minerals Act, the terms laid out in the exploration permit or exploitation concession or if there are other specific reasons. The revocation of an exploration permit or an exploitation concession can only occur if considerable public interests are at stake. Revocation may also proceed owing to foreign and defence policy if it is necessary to secure Swedish influence over a deposit. An exploration permit may also be revoked if the holder is in breach of any term regarding consent to exploration work.

The terms of an exploitation concession can be changed if an operation according to the concession gives rise to inconveniences of considerable size that were not anticipated when the concession was granted. Under other circumstances, the terms laid out in exploration permits or exploitation concessions may be changed only in accordance with the holder’s request or consent.

The Environmental Code also provides the possibility to change the conditions and terms of an environmental permit or to revoke the environmental permits, in whole or in part. A revocation or change of conditions and terms may only be made owing to specific circumstances such as the operations giving rise to inconveniences of considerable size that were not anticipated when the environmental permit was granted or a considerable breach of the environmental permit terms and conditions. Several governmental authorities have the possibility to initiate the processes described above.

Acquisition by domestic parties versus acquisition by foreign parties

Is there any distinction in law or practice between the mining rights that may be acquired by domestic parties and those that may be acquired by foreign parties?

There are no restrictions on foreign nationals obtaining exploration permits and exploitation concessions.

An exploration permit or exploitation concession may be transferred after consent by the issuing authority.

Protection of mining rights

How are mining rights protected? Are foreign arbitration awards in respect of domestic mining disputes freely enforceable in your jurisdiction?

The Mining Inspectorate handles any disputes between the permit or concession holder and the landowner concerning rights and obligations connected to exploration or exploitation. Disputes regarding compensation to the landowner are handled by the Mining Inspectorate or the Land and Environmental Court.

Decisions made under the Minerals Act can be appealed, but the proper second instance depends on the type of decision being appealed.

The New York Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards 1958, has been ratified by Sweden.

Surface rights

What types of surface rights may mining rights holders request and acquire? How are these rights acquired? Can surface rights holders oppose these requests?

A legal proceeding for the designation of land is held at the request and expense of the concession holder. This procedure establishes the concession area, which is the area the concession holder may use for exploitation of the mineral deposits. In addition, any land within or outside the concession area, which the concession holder plans to use for activities related to the exploitation, may be covered by the decision. When an exploitation concession is terminated, the concession holder forfeits any rights to the land assigned to him or her at that time.

Prior to the designation of land, the holder of the mining rights may enter into agreements with surface rights holders to acquire land rights. If all parties are in agreement, land will be designated according to what has been agreed. Where no agreements have been reached, the acquisition of land rights is handled in the land designation process. A surface rights holder may oppose the request by the mining rights holder to acquire land rights. If so, the conflicting interest is tried according to provisions in the Minerals Act, and land is designated according to what is required for the mining operations and connected activities. Land designations can be appealed to the Land and Environmental court and subsequently to the Land and Environmental Court of Appeal.

Participation of government and state agencies

Does the government or do state agencies have the right to participate in mining projects? Is there a local listing requirement for the project company?

Neither the government nor state agencies have a right to participate in mining projects. The project company is not required to be listed locally at any stage of the permit and concession processes.

Government expropriation of licences

Are there provisions in law dealing with government expropriation of licences? What are the compensation provisions?

It is not possible to expropriate permits or concessions related to mining, hence there are no compensation provisions regarding expropriation. On the other hand, the state is able to expropriate land and other areas under certain premises stated in the Expropriation Act (No. 719 of 1972). Reasons for expropriation are specified in this Act. The decision to expropriate land is made by the government as a main rule, but the power of authority can be transferred to the County Administrative Board under certain circumstances. The compensation provisions for expropriated land are also stated in the Expropriation Act.

Protected areas

Are any areas designated as protected areas within your jurisdiction and which are off-limits or specially regulated?

No exploration or exploitation is allowed in national parks and there are several other areas or proximity limitations that might affect the outlook of conducting mining operations. Mining operations are rarely permitted:

  • in areas included in local plans or regional provisions under the Planning and Building Act;
  • closer than 30 metres to publicly owned transport infrastructure;
  • within 200 metres of inhabited buildings;
  • in areas of military interest;
  • in areas with electric power stations and industrial plants;
  • within 200 metres of public buildings, hotels, churches and comparable establishments;
  • in churchyards and burial grounds; and
  • in certain specified undisturbed areas of the Swedish mountains.

According to the Environmental Code, if an activity is located near or within a Natura 2000 area, the operator must demonstrate that the activity will not affect the environment in a significant way (Natura 2000 is an ecological network of protected areas across the European Union). The Environmental Court tends to adjudicate matters affecting Natura 2000 areas quite strictly.

Exploration work that can have significant impact on the natural environment requires that a notice of consultation is sent to the County Administrative Board. If exploration work can damage land use where it is being carried out, security for compensation has to be given if the landowner has not given their consent.