Mining rights are the basis for the exploration and extraction of free-to-mine natural resources. Applications are made in the form of a permit, a license or proprietary mining rights.
The licence is a mining right which grants the right to carry out exploration operations for free-to-mine natural resources on a specific, licensed mine site. The licence defines ‘a reasonable period of time for the implementation of extraction in individual cases’. Fifty years may only be exceeded if this is necessary in view of the investment normally required for the extraction. A time extension is possible (see § 16 (5) BBergG). A legal entitlement to the granting of a license exists, unless there are grounds for refusal.
In compliance with § 75 et seq. of the BBergG, mining authorisations and mining maps are created to document the mining rights. Information about licences, permits, proprietary mining rights and on the mine sites in question is available in these documents.
The various forms of mining rights described above (permit, licence and proprietary mining rights) are also supplemented by older legal mining rights, which are described as “rights under the old laws” or “old rights”. These are mining rights that were granted before the current Federal Mining Act of 1982 came into force, e.g. the lignite opencast mines in the Rhenish mining region. Under current law, these rights are still valid (see § 149 (1), sentence 1 BBergG) if they were shown to the relevant mining authority during a phase-out period of three years after the Mining Law of 1982 came into force and if they were confirmed by mining inspection authorities. In con- trast to mining rights under the new BBergG, rights under the old laws are not time-limited and neither extraction nor mine site royalties have to be paid. In practice, these old rights mainly apply to hard coal and lignite. An operating plan must be approved before these natural resources can be extracted
Operating plans basically include the following:
• A presentation of the scope of the project
• A presentation of the technical implementation of the project
• The duration of the project
• Evidence that the conditions of approval have been met
- Abstracting and withdrawing water from surface waters,
- Damming up and releasing surface waters,
- Removal of solids from surface waters, where this has an effect on water characteristics,
- The introduction and discharge of substances into water,
- The removal, extraction, channelling and abstraction of groundwater.
- The damming up, releasing and re-routing of groundwater through plants that are intended or suitable for this purpose,
- Measures that have the potential to bring about disadvantageous changes to the quality of the water, permanently or to a significant extent,
- The application of hydraulic pressure to fracture rock to prospect for or extract natural gas, crude oil or geothermal energy, including the associated deep boreholes,
- The storage of water from deposits that has accumulated during activities set out in number 3 or other activities to prospect for or extract natural gas or crude oil.
The right to environmental information gives every- one free access to environmental information held by agencies that have a duty to disclose information. To achieve this, the Federal Government and Federal States have issued regulations that implement the regulations under international law (the “first pillar” of the Aarhus Convention) and the Access to Environ- mental Information Directive 2003/4/EC of the European Union. A distinction needs to be made between the German Federal Freedom of Information Act (UIG), which governs access to environmental information at federal level, and the environmental information laws of the Federal States, which apply
to agencies in the Federal States that have a duty to disclose information. The general Freedom of Infor- mation Act (IFG) applies in respect of other official information held by federal authorities.
1 Federal Mining Act (BbergG): https://www.gesetze-im-internet.de/bbergg/
2 Water Resources Act, available online at: https://www.gesetze-im-internet.de/whg_2009/
3 Federal government’s EIA portal (https://www.uvp-portal.de/), EIA network – environmental impact assessments of the Federal States (https://www. uvp-verbund.de/portal/), as an example the EIA portal of Lower Saxony (https://uvp.niedersachsen.de/startseite).
4 also a glossary for the Water Resources Act (WHG); on the legal framework for abstracting water also Chapter 7.1 d.
5 glossary for Federal Immission Control Act (BImSchG).
6 The origin of the information and text passages is the German Federal Ministry for the Environment. These and further information can be accessed at: https://www.bmu.de/themen/bildung-beteiligung/umweltinformation/umweltinformationsgesetz/ (Accessed on 15 December 2021).
7 Information on where such information can be accessed or found is sufficient
8 Example: Environmental portal of North Rhine-Westphalia (https://www.umweltportal.nrw.de/); Lower Saxony (https://numis.niedersachsen.de/ portal); Thuringia (https://www.umweltportal.thueringen.de/) An overview of existing environmental portals can be accessed via https://rohstofftrans- de/download/#umweltinformationen.
9 The central internet protal can be found at: https://www.uvp-portal.de/.
10 The complete decision can be downloaded and viewed at https://rohstofftransparenz.de/download/#umweltinformationen oder https://www.uvp-ver- de/documents/ingrid-group_ige-iplug-he/EEBA0F02-E468-4AE8-A148-D11193D8D737/Erlaubnisbescheid_2021_final.pdf.