Portuguese Best Practice in land planning and minerals policy

The European Commission selected this year three examples from Portugal to include in a brochure with twenty five good practices cases in Europe in the raw materials sector.

The first Portuguese example relates to the effort by the Government to increase the capacity and effectiveness of land use planning. The goal is that all land use maps include exploration and exploitation areas and areas with potential mineral resources what is already the case for many maps approved since 2004 as a result of meetings between the national mining authority and different entities and stakeholders, dissemination of information and the publication of the “Dictionary on land use plans”, with a common methodology and nomenclature for mineral resources. Overlapping with other activities shall be authorised only if it does not compromise the current and future access to mineral resources. This measure is still ongoing and there are some land use maps that need to be updated according to this plan. It is worthwhile noting that currently the only area in Portugal where no geological activity is allowed is that of the National Park Peneda-Gerês.

The second case selected by the European Commission is the Portuguese National Strategy for Geological Resources – Mineral Resources approved in September 2012. This strategy envisages a redefinition of the State’s role, the revision of the rules of organization and discipline of the activity, the development of knowledge and appreciation of the national potential and its dissemination and promotion and economic, social, environmental and territorial sustainability. Within this strategy, the Government announced this July 2014 the mineral fostering programme for 2014-2020 which includes the creation within a short period of time of a mining one-stop-shop. Said one-stop-shop shall among others serve as the focus point for the investor and establish the internal communications with the different Government entities involved, prepare a guide with all relevant information for the mining investor, foster partnerships with international companies, contact directly with the international players, promote Portugal’s mineral potential and raise awareness on the relevance of the geological resources.

The third and last example from Portugal to be included in the abovementioned brochure is the new royalties’ policy which has already been implemented in recently executed concession agreements and will also be set out in the new base law of geological resources that the Government is preparing.

Until 2007, the royalties in Portugal were used primarily to finance public entities in the area of the geological resources. From 2007 to 2012, royalties were used to finance the same public entities but also to support the rehabilitation of abandoned mining sites.

According to the new policy, up to 25% of the royalties’ amount may be used directly by the concessionaire on social commitment programs and projects. The value of the royalties may be subject to deductions for local, regional or national environmental programs, geological and mining heritage projects, projects proposed by local authorities or even R&D mining projects focused on mineral optimisation of metal recovery. A part of the royalties may also be used for the Geological Resources Fund to be created to support actions on knowledge, conservation and valuing of the Portuguese mining and geological heritage.

Besides the provisions on royalties, the new base law of geological resources shall include mandatory consultations to municipalities and other competent entities on environmental preservation and land planning for all phases of the concession process, publication of the non-binding opinions from those entities and any claims made, a new phase of prior evaluation with a maximum duration of one year to allow research and studies of the existing resources including access to the national archives and collecting of samples from the surface and the possibility of two or more concessionaires joining in a group of concessionaires with a single representative if they have adjacent concessions, belong to the same group or the exploited resources are similar or complementary.

The Government is also preparing the revision of all diplomas applicable to the geological resources particularly to mineral deposits, mineral and geo-thermal resources and spring waters. Measures namely of legislative nature with regard to the aspects highlighted in the mineral fostering programme may eventually also be taken namely related to (1) financing instruments for the whole value chain, (2) fostering knowledge of the country’s geological resources, (3) increasing the number of qualified human resources and available equipment, (4) revising concession and license procedures, (5) mitigating the effects of bonds and (6) defining the future role of the state owned company EDM.

There has been a clear effort by the Government to adopt measures in line with the best practices throughout the mining industry worldwide and create a favourable environment for investors in the mining sector in Portugal. Hopefully these measures will result in increased investment to this sector. 

Fátima Nunes and Ricardo da Mota Veiga
ANIET - Associação Nacional da Indústria Extractiva e Transformadora