At the same time when mining is seen by many debt-ridden states as the manna from heaven and legislation is tailored to fit prospective investors, France may be showing the way for sustainable mining.
The 700-article proposal for the reform of the Mining Code, which was prepared by an independent inter-disciplinary committee led by State Councillor Thierry Tuot, aims to modernise France’s mining legislation that dates back to the 19th century.
Maintaining the principle of state ownership over all under-soil resources, the proposal sets high environmental standards, in conformity with the 2004 constitutional Environment Charter, and sets a series of systematic procedures for public consultation, stakeholder participation in decision-making and access to environmental information.
As regards state revenues from mining activity, a burning issue in mining laws worldwide, the draft proposes that a fee will be paid to the local municipalities. The fee will be set through direct negotiations between the mining operators and the municipalities. The issue of allocation of revenues for the restoration of the environmental damage caused by mining activity remains open.
The working group was fortunate enough to avoid discussing the hot issue of hydraulic fracturing for shale gas and oil, since the Constitutional Court has already ruled in favour of the ban imposed by law in 2011. The establishment of a multi-stakeholder supreme mining council, as an advisory body to the Government, is also proposed.
According to WWF’s Anne-Gaelle Verdier who participated in the working group, a point of concern is the insufficient regulating framework for mining operations in overseas territories.
According to Philippe Martin, Minister of Ecology, Sustainable Development and Energy, the draft law will be submitted to the Cabinet during the first semester of 2014.
In many EU member states, mining activity is regulated by obsolete legislation that does not provide basic environmental safeguards and excludes local communities from meaningful consultation and participation in the decision-making process.