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Mines Ordinance 1922

Legal Risk Rating
Score: 21
Critical Risk
The main regulation in Israel - the Mines Ordinance - predates the formation of the country (1922); as a result, one reads with some humour the right of the exploration licence holder "to herd no more than twenty riding animals or beasts of burden that are clean of diseases onto public land adjacent to the licenced land for free." Nevertheless, unlike Jordan, Israel's mining law has little else that is quaint about it; it persistently fails to address key concerns of the international investor in virtually every category of analysis.

Regulatory Corruption Risk

Extremely High Corruption Potential

Corruption Exposure Risk

Low Corruption Risk

Legal Risk Rating

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Mining Overview Commentary plus sign



The State of Israel has an elongated territory stretching north to south along the border of the Mediterranean Sea. It shares a land border with Lebanon and Syria on its northern tip and Egypt on its southern boundary, with the balance of its territory squeezed between the Mediterranean Sea (to the west) and Jordan (to the east). The Palestinian territories lie within the boundaries of Israel and are not coterminous but rather several disparate pieces of territory, whose status within the United Nations is as a non-member, observer state. The de facto recognition of these territories as forming an independent state is rejected by both the State of Israel and the United States of America. According to the US Geological Survey’s 2012 Minerals Yearbook, Israel accounted for about 34% of the world’s production of bromine; 6% of total potash production; and significant world production of magnesium and phosphate rock. It also hosts potentially economic resources of copper.


There are several pieces of legislation and regulations relevant to Israeli mining law, including the Mining Ordinance 1978, the Mining Regulations (Licencing), the Mining Commissioner Regulations and the State Property Law 1951. In addition, the Planning and Building Law 1965 can also be relevant in certain circumstances. The mining industry is largely regulated by the Ministry of Energy and Water Resources and the Mines Unit, which sits within the Ministry. The Unit is headed by the Controller of Mines, who operates pursuant to the Mining Ordinance. The Controller of Mines' functions include responsibility for the issuance of mining and quarrying licenses, as well as mineral prospecting licenses and permits.

The Mines Unit operates in accordance with the national outline plans for mining and quarrying. National Outline Plan 14 is currently in force, albeit National Outline Plan 14B is being drafted to update the older plan. Another potentially important plan is National Outline Plan 14C, also in the drafting stage, which is a plan for industrial minerals (as distinct from raw materials for building and road construction).


This section concerns the permitting process for mines, as opposed to quarries. The Mining Ordinance (MO) defines minerals as “all materials of economic value that are part of the earth’s crust or whose natural origin is in the earth’s crust, including mineral oil, clay, asphalt and natural gas, but not minerals in solution or peat, and not materials that have been defined by the term ‘quarry’.” Under the MO, the Controller of Mines is in responsible for processing applications and issuing approvals for prospecting permits, exploration permits, prospecting licenses and discovery certificates, required in the case of minerals. Licensing is a staged process, throughout which developers will need to submit detailed plans, timelines and findings for each stage. Upon examination of such materials the Controller of Mines will grant the appropriate license.

Following the discovery of a mineral and the proof of its economic viability, it is necessary to submit a detailed plan for its extraction. Such plan will then form the basis for the extraction license, which is subsequently issued by the Controller of Mines (similar terms and requirements apply in the application for a quarrying license).

  • Reconnaissance Permit: whilst not called a reconnaissance permit in the MO, an exploration permit or prospecting permit (as it is called in translated documentation) is, in fact, what would be known elsewhere as a reconnaissance permit. It is issued for specific or non-specified minerals and has a duration of 12 months (MO, Art. 13(2)). It can be renewed for a further period at the discretion of the Commissioner (MO, Art. 14(1)).


  • Investigation Permit: the investigation permit is granted according to such period of time as may be specified by the Commissioner (MO, Art. 16). The permit gives exclusivity over the area to explore for the specified minerals (MO, Art. 17) and gives the holder the exclusive right to apply for an exploration licence (MO, Art. 17). In order to secure an exploration licence, the holder must demonstrate the presence of the minerals sought under an exploration licence (MO, Art. 24) and, in this regard, the Commissioner may require the holder to produce maps, diagrams, analysis and test results to demonstrate such fact (MO, Art. 18, et seq.).


  • Exploration Licence: an exploration licence is granted according to such period of time as may be permitted for the relevant minerals (MO, Art. 24). The holder is under an obligation to explore for the minerals diligently and expertly (MO, Art. 26). In order to obtain an exploration licence, the applicant must hold a reconnaissance permit or an investigation permit (MO, Art. 25) and must show proof of the presence of the specified minerals and proof of technical and financial capabilities (MO, Art. 24(2)). The maximum duration of the licence is five years (MO, First Addition, s. 25) and its maximum area is 10 hectares (MO, First Addition, s. 28).


  • Discovery Certificate: the holder of an exploration licence that has made a discovery of minerals in “worthwhile amounts” (meaning sufficient minerals to justify commercial operations) is entitled to obtain mining privileges or a mining contract. Mining privileges are only relevant to alluvial deposits; otherwise a mining contract will be granted (MO, Art. 48(2)). These mining rights must be applied for within one year of the discovery (MO, Art. 40(2)). Upon the making of a discovery, the licence holder must demark the land with a monument and may require a survey (MO, First Addition, s. 36).


  • Mining Privileges: As mentioned above, these are awarded to the holder of an exploration licence that has received a discovery certificate in respect of an alluvial deposit(s). It provides the right to mine for one year and may be renewed (MO, Art. 48(1)).


  • Mining Contract: As mentioned above, these are awarded to the holder of an exploration licence that has received a discovery certificate in respect of a mineral deposits other than alluvial deposits. The tenure is not to exceed 30 years (Art. 49(2)). So long as mining produces "worthwhile amounts" (or economically valuable minerals), a right of priority to renew under fair and just terms exists (MO, Art. 49(2)). The lease area is not to be larger than 50 hectares (MO, First Addition, s. 35).


The right of transfer is restricted in the case of an exploration licence or mining contract and requires governmental approval (MO, Arts. 29 and 85(a)). At all times, it will be necessary to demonstrate professional competence in the form of geologists, accountants and others necessary to fully discharge the obligations under the law (Mining Commissioner Regulations).


The Planning and Building Regulations (Environmental Impact Statements) 2003 require any development project that will “cause a significant impact on the environment” and which involves industrial areas in which there will be conducted “the production, storage or transport of polluting or hazardous materials [or] mining or quarrying sites” to undergo an environmental impact assessment (Art. 2(a)(2)). The Planning and Building Law 1965 may also require a permit in order to construct certain mining structures. Generally, mines are permitted pursuant to the MO, however, under Article 145 of the Planning and Building Law 1965, and according to the Planning and Building Regulations, a mine that is proposed in a location where mining is prohibited requires approval and a permit under the relevant planning legislation. Water rights, including the right to divert watercourses, are not automatically conferred under the MO (MO, Art. 75), but must be applied for under the law (MO, Art. 76).


See Israel Environment Regulation.

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Environmental Overview Commentary plus sign



The State of Israel has a Mediterranean climate characterised by long and hot summers. In the winter, snow is possible in the Golan Heights and other elevated parts but never lasts long. Due to hunting, loss of habitat and other factors, many mammals have become extinct in the country, including: the Syrian brown bear, the Arabian ostrich, the cheetah, the European water vole and Caucasian squirrel; while many others are at a high risk of extinction or endangered. However efforts to reintroduce some mammals, such as the Persian fallow deer, roe deer and Eurasian lynx, are bearing fruit. Israel is home to a diverse number of plants owing to its Mediterranean climate and geographical location, serving as a bridge to Europe, Africa and the rest of the Middle East.


The Ministry of Environmental Protection is responsible for environmental management. The country lacks a modern, comprehensive environmental code and, as a result, regulation of the environment occurs via a diverse range of legislation and regulations. The Licensing of Businesses Law 1968 authorises the requirement for obtaining a licence to conduct business activities that impact on the quality of the environment (Art. 1(a)) and the Abatement of Nuisances Law 1961 prohibits unreasonable noise, odours and air pollution (Arts. 2-4). The Hazardous Substances Law 1993 requires a license for handling virtually any metal or hydrocarbon, among many other things. In terms of the environmental impact assessment procedure, the Planning and Building Regulations (Environmental Impact Statements) 2003 (EIA Regulations) are the most relevant.


The EIA Regulations make plain that a mining operation will normally require an environmental impact assessment (EIA). It states that any plan that will “cause a significant impact on the environment” and involves industrial areas in which there will be conducted “the production, storage or transport of polluting or hazardous materials [or] mining or quarrying sites” requires an EIA (Art. 2(a)(2)). According to the regulation, the stages of an EIA consist of the following:

(1)     the decision on the need for a statement by the planning agency;

(2)     the preparation of draft guidelines by an environmental adviser or the planning agency;

(3)     the submission of the guidelines;

(4)     the preparation and submission of the statement;

(5)     the review of the statement and preparation of an opinion thereon by the environmental adviser;

(6)     the discussion of the statement, as part of the discussion on the plan and the decision of the planning agency on both the statement and the plan and on the opinion.

The draft guidelines must be submitted within 45 days of the day the plan is received; the planning agency will decide within a further 20 days whether or not to accept the guidelines for the EIA; the EIA must then be prepared within three years of the approval of the guidelines, although the period may be extended on approval of the planning agency (Arts. 7 and 9). There is an opportunity to respond to a negative decision, but the recourse is to the planning agency and its decision is final. The public has the right to review all documentation (Art. 12(d)).

The guidance given in Article 8(5) is useful insofar as it provides concrete guidance as to the test that must be met; it reads:

the findings of the statement and proposals for means of preventing negative environmental impacts, which should be included in the plan's provisions; for this purpose, "means of preventing negative environmental impacts" – means for the prevention or reduction of irreversible impacts and nuisances, savings in the exploitation of natural resources, monitoring or follow up measures or other measures designed to protect the environment.

A mine operator will invariably also need a hazardous substances license under the Hazardous Substances Law 1993. This will include operations that involve hazardous substances in order to operate, even where the mineral products produced are themselves inert. Schedule One and Two of the law lists harmful chemicals and hazardous materials, which collectively make up the definition of “hazardous substances,” and includes virtually all metals and minerals in raw form, as well as concentrates of metals and minerals, and fuel oil, gasoline and various acid compounds.

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