ISRAEL ENVIRONMENTAL REGULATION
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.
PRINCIPAL LEGISLATION AND REGULATOR
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.
EIA PROCESS AND OTHER PERMITS
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.