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Law No. 33-13 Relating to Mines

Legal Risk Rating
Score: 61
Moderate Risk
Morocco has created a new regulatory framework which we see as encouraging and supportive towards the country's mining industry; had the regulations contained objective criteria for 'financial and technical capacity' the country rating would have been amongst the top codes scored on the African continent. Regardless, it enjoys a place in the top 10 and leads the way amongst its North African neighbours.

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Morocco, officially the Kingdom of Morocco, is located in North Africa, bordered by Algeria to the east and southeast and the Western Sahara to the south, with the Atlantic Ocean to the west and the Mediterranean Sea to the north. Ceuta and Melilla, two autonomous Spanish cities, lie on Morocco’s northern border; the country is separated from mainland Spain by the Strait of Gibraltar, with the countries just under 9 miles apart at their closest point.

Morocco is considered to be both politically and economically stable, particularly in relation to other African countries and the country enjoys considerable ties with the West. Morocco has the fifth largest economy in Africa by GDP (nominal) and the 61st largest economy by GDP (nominal) in the world (IMF, 2015). Agriculture, industry and services are the key contributors to the country's economy. Morocco's proximity to Europe has resulted in strong trade relationships, particular with countries such as Spain and France, which are the main recipients of Moroccan exports. Foreign investment from the EU accounts for over 70% of FDI in the country.

Mining in Morocco is a significant industry which contributes around 10% of the country's GDP and makes up over 30% of the country's total exports (USGS). Morocco is a world leading phosphate producer, currently rated as the third largest phosphate producer in the world. According to USGS, in 2013 Morocco was responsible for “16% of the world’s arsenic output, 12% of phosphate rock, 10% of barite and about 2% of cobalt”. Other known mineral resources include: iron ore; manganese; lead; zinc; copper; feldspar; silver; and various aggregates. Mining in the country tends to occur in the two main mountainous regions where the Atlas and Rif Mountains are located.

In 2015 Morocco was rated 24th of the 109 jurisdictions covered in the Fraser Institute’s annual Policy Perceptions Index.


In 2015, Morocco adopted a new mining code – Law No. 33-13 Relating to Mines (hereinafter Mining Law or ML) (Loi No. 33-13 Relative aux Mines); this law replaced the existing legislation, which dated back to 1951. In 2016, following the promulgation of the new law, Decree No. 2-15-807 on the procedure for granting mining titles (hereinafter Mining Decree) (Decret No. 2-15-807 pris pour l’application des dispositions de la Loi No 33-13) was enacted to complete the regulatory framework for governing the mining sector. Pursuant to Article 3 of the Mining Law, mines are considered part of the State’s public domain and mining titles must be obtained in order to carry out research, exploration and exploitation of the country’s natural resources.

The Ministry of Energy, Mines, Water and Environment (MEM) (Ministére de l’Energie, des Mines, de l’Eau et de l’Environnement) takes responsibility for the mining industry in Morocco. The Ministry contains the Mining and Hydrocarbons Directorate (DMH) (Direction des Mines et Hydrocarbons) which is the primary organisation responsible for the granting of mining titles and rights within the county). The DMH encompasses several different divisions which oversee various different aspects of the industry; the directorate is headed by the Director of Mines and Hydrocarbons (Director). The Mining Law also contemplates the establishment of Provincial Commissions, which are responsible for determining issues of land access and compensation.


Only legal persons may obtain mining titles in Morocco. To be eligible for the mining titles listed below, applicants must file a dossier with the administration to prove they have the appropriate technical, administrative and financial capacities to carry out the work (Art. 4, ML; see also Art. 1, Mining Decree).

The following titles may be granted under the Mining Law:


  • Exploration Authorisation (autorisation d'exploration): The Exploration Authorisation (EA) is akin to a reconnaissance right. EA are granted for a continuous area not less than 100 km2 and no more than 600 km2, determined according to the applicant’s planned exploration program and investments (Art. 24, ML). A maximum of four EAs may be held by any one person (Art. 24, ML). EAs confer to the holder the exclusive right to carry out exploration work (as defined in the ML) and to obtain one or more Research Permits in the area (Art. 22, ML). In cases where an EA is granted for an area covered by a Research Permit or Mining Licence, the rights of the holders of the latter two titles shall prevail (Art. 23, ML). Applicants for an EA must enter into an agreement with the administration which shall establish the nature of the work, the technical means to implement the work and the planned investments (Art. 25, ML; see also Art. 3, Mining Decree); a model agreement is attached to the Mining Decree. A work program and other accompanying documentation must also be provided as part of the application (Art. 2, Mining Decree). EAs are granted for a period of two years, with the specific period of validity to be specified in the authorisation itself (see Arts. 25-26, ML). Work under an EA must commence within 3 months of the issuance of the title and continue according to the work program (Art. 27, ML). Results must be reported to the administration at least every 12 months (Art. 29, ML). EA are non-transferable (Art. 27, ML).


  • Research Permit (permis de recherche): The Research Permit (RP) is akin to an exploration right. RP are granted on a first come / first serve basis or to EA holders within the area of the right, providing an application is made during the period of the EA (see Arts. 22 and 34, ML). RPs confer to the holder the exclusive right to research mining products within the area in order to identify a deposit (Art. 35, ML). The RP shall specify the area to which the right relates and the duration (Art. 36, ML). RP are granted for a period of 3 years, renewable only once for a further period of 4 years, providing the work program has been realised and the relevant expenditure requirements met (Art. 37, ML). RP holders are required to research and identify deposits in the area; present, within 6 months following the allocation of the permit, the work program and related expenditures; provide the administration with all information, documents and studies relating to the work; commence work within 12 months of the allocation of the permit; and regularly provide updates on the progress of the work program (Art. 38, ML). Contiguous Research Permits may be merged (Art. 40, ML). RP are transferable with the prior consent of the administration, providing the transferee meets the application criteria for the right (Arts. 11 & 14, ML).


  • Mining Licence (permis d'exploitation minière): RP holders may request that a Mining Licence be granted at any time during the validity of an RP (Art. 41, ML); the discovery of a deposit confers to the RP holder the exclusive right to request a Mining Licence (Art. 42, ML). Where the request to convert an RP is refused, licences shall be granted via a competitive process (Art. 44, ML; see also Arts. 18-21, Mining Decree). The Mining Licence confers the exclusive right to extract and/or develop mining products (Art. 47, ML) as well as to construct buildings and facilities necessary for carrying out mining work (Art. 51, ML). To obtain the licence applicants must demonstrate the presence of one or more ore deposits; the area covered by the licence is based on the extent of the ore deposit and cannot exceed the surface area of the RP(s) (Art. 48, ML). The application must contain evidence of financial and technical capacity, a feasibility study, work program and EIA (Art. 10, Mining Decree). An operating plan must be provided at least one month prior to the commencement of works and be approved by the administration (Art. 26, Mining Decree). Mining Licences are granted for a period of 10 years, renewable for successive10-year periods until reserves are depleted (Art. 50, ML). Mining Licences are transferable with the prior consent of the administration, providing the transferee meets the application criteria for the right (Arts. 11 & 14, ML).


The Mining Law also provides separate licences for the exploitation of stockpiles and mine tailings and cavity mining.


Mining Licence holders must mark out the perimeter of the mining title at the first request of the administration (Art. 53, ML). Operating plans and work programs must be developed by personnel with the appropriate qualifications and experience in geological and mining matters, or by a person or company approved by the administration (Art. 58, ML; see also Arts. 34-44, Mining Decree).The operating plan must be submitted and approved at least one month prior to the commencement of exploitation activities (Art. 26, ML). Licence holders are required to disclose all information relating to geology, geophysics, geochemistry, hydrology, mining, economics and social aspects as well as information on mining activity, work programs and budgets to the administration (Art. 63, ML). Certain fees apply in relation to the application and renewal of all titles (Art. 24, Mining Decree). Minimum expenditure amounts are also provided for each title (Art, 23, Mining Decree). The administration must be notified prior to the commencement of works (Art. 25, Mining Decree).

Research and exploitation works within 50 meters of certain buildings or areas will require the express permission of the administration (Art. 66, ML) and the State has the right to establish special protection areas in the interest of the common good (Art. 67, ML). Titleholders have the right to install facilities and structures required for the completion of works in the area to which the title relates. In relation to private land, titleholders must enter into an agreement with the landowner(s) prior to accessing the area. In cases where an agreement cannot be reached the Provincial Commission shall determine the level of compensation, taking into account the location and the usual rental value for mining and research activities; where the decision of the commission is disputed, the matter shall be decided by the courts (Art. 69, ML; see also Arts. 32-33, Mining Decree). Temporary occupation may be granted providing an indemnity is paid (Art. 69, ML). Where occupation continues for over 5 years, or the land is not fit for its original purpose, the titleholder may be compelled to purchase the land for an agreed price or a price determined by the Provincial Commission or courts (Art. 72, ML).

Mining Licence applicants must carry out an environmental impact assessment (EIA) study and obtain a decision on the environmental acceptability of the project (Art. 59, ML). National and regional committees, alongside the environmental division of the MEM are responsible for overseeing the EIA process and approving projects. Public inquiries form a key aspect of the EIA process.


See Morocco - Environmental Overview Commentary.

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Morocco is one of seven countries and territories that make up North Africa; it is bordered by Algeria to the east and southeast, the Western Sahara to the south, the Atlantic Ocean to the west and the Mediterranean Sea to the north. The Spanish territories of Ceuta and Melilla sit on the country’s northern coast.

Morocco has an area of 446, 550 km2 (discounting the disputed territory of Western Sahara) making it the 25th largest country in Africa and the 58th largest country in the world. The country’s terrain is mainly mountainous; in the north, on the Mediterranean coastline, one finds the Rif Mountains, home to several large-scale iron ore mines, whilst the Atlas Mountains, which run though Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia, occupy the central part of the country. The remaining land consists mainly of high and low plains, plateaus and valleys.

Morocco is generally considered to have a typical Mediterranean climate, experiencing hot, dry summers and wet but mild winters. Higher levels of rainfall occur in the mountainous regions, where snowfall can also occur in the winter months; towards the south of the country, close to the Sahara Desert, there is a semi-arid climate.

Morocco enjoys considerable biodiversity, especially in relation to birdlife. Over 450 species of bird can be found within the country including golden eagles, storks, pelicans, flamingos and various species of grebes, cormorants, herons, egrets, kites, hawks and falcons. Other wildlife includes jackals, foxes, porcupines, gazelles and hyenas; numerous species of primates also live in the county, including the now endangered Barbary macaque. Oak, poplar and cork trees are common; Cedar forests are found in the Middle Atlas region where juniper and pine trees also grow. In the south-west, the endemic Argan trees grow, covering a vast expanse now designated as a UNESCO biosphere reserve.

Desertification, over farming and water pollution are amongst environmental challenges faced by the country.


According to Article 31 of the Constitution of Morocco (2011), the State shall use all available means to facilitate the right of all citizens to access a healthy environment. In 2003 the government began to promulgate new laws designed to protect the environment and update the previous legal framework, which dated back some 50 years. The primary environmental laws of relevance to the mining industry include: Law No. 99-12 concerning a National Charter for the Environment and Sustainable Development; Law No. 11-03 pertaining to the protection and improvement of the environment; Law No. 12-03 pertaining to environmental impact studies (EIA Law); Decree No. 2-04-563 pertaining to the powers and operation of the national committee and regional committees on environmental impact assessments (Decree No. 2-04-563); Decree No. 2-04-564 pertaining to the procedures and organisation of public inquiries for environmental impact studies (Decree No. 2-04-564); Law No. 33-13 (Mining Law); and Decree No 2-15-807 (Mining Decree).

The Ministry of Energy, Mines, Water and Environment oversees the mining industry and takes responsibility for environmental protection in Morocco. The Ministry has an Environmental Evaluation Division (EED), specifically responsible for managing and auditing environmental impact assessment (EIA) studies. National and Regional Environmental Committees have also been established and these committees take an active role in the EIA process. The National Environmental Committee for EIA (NECEIA) is responsible for examining the EIA study and must give an opinion to the EED on the environmental acceptability of projects, as well as participate in the development of guidelines relating to the EIA process (Ch. 1, Art. 2, Decree No. 2-04-563). The NECEIA is responsible for reviewing all projects with an investment threshold of over 200 million MAD (around 20 million USD), as well as projects which impact multiple regions or are considered cross-border (Ch. 1, Art. 3, Decree No. 2-04-563). Regional Environmental Committees for EIA (RECEIA) shall review all projects below the investment threshold above, performing the same role as the NECEIA at a regional level (see Ch. 2, Decree No. 2-04-563). The committees include representatives of various government authorities including energy and mining, planning, water and industry (see Arts. 4 & 14, Decree No. 2-04-563).


Article 59 of the Mining Law requires mining licence holders to undertake an EIA study in order to demonstrate the environmental acceptability of the project. The Mining Law also requires rights holders to undertake extraction in a way that takes into account the regulations relating to environmental protection (Art. 52, Mining Law). Mining industry activities that require an EIA study as mandatory are also listed in the Annex to the EIA Law (see also Art. 2, EIA Law); generally speaking, exploration activities shall not require an EIA study.

In order to proceed with a project, mining licence holders will need to obtain a positive decision from the EED in relation to the environmental acceptability of the proposed works (see Ch. 1, Art. 1.4, EIA Law; see also Ch. 2, Art. 7, EIA Law). The EIA study shall form part of the application for government approval and should allow for the evaluation of direct and indirect impacts that can effect the environment in the short, medium and long term as a result of the implementation of the project (see Ch. 1, Art. 1.2, EIA Law).

According to Article 5 of the EIA Law, the objectives of the EIA study are: to evaluate in a systematic and preliminary way the possible repercussions and the direct and indirect, temporary and permanent impacts of the project on the environment, particularly on man, fauna, flora, soil, water, air, climate, the natural environment and the biological balance as well as various other aspects; to eliminate, alleviate and compensate the negative impacts of the project; to promote and improve the positive impacts of the project on the environment; and to inform the relevant general public about the negative impacts of the project.

Pursuant to Article 6 of the EIA Law, an EIA study must consist of the following elements:

  • An overall description of the site which is likely to be affected;
  • A description of the main components, characteristics and phases of implementation of the project, including manufacturing processes, the nature and quantities of raw materials and energy resources used, the liquid, gaseous and solid waste, as well as the waste generated by the implementation or exploitation of the project;
  • An evaluation of the positive, negative and harmful impacts of the project on the biological, physical and human environment that could be affected;
  • Measures envisaged by the applicant to eliminate, reduce or compensate for the harmful consequences of the project and measures aimed at promoting and improving the positive impacts of the project;
  • A monitoring and follow up programme of the project as well as the measures envisaged in terms of training, communication and management aimed at ensuring that implementation, exploitation and development are in accordance with the technical specifications and with the environmental requirements of the study;
  • A presentation of the legal and institutional framework pertaining to the project and to the premises where it will be implemented, as well as forecast costs;
  • A summary of the content and conclusions of the EIA study; and
  • A simplified summary of the information and essential data contained in the study for the attention of the public.


A public inquiry must be held with the aim of informing the public and allowing observations and suggestions to be made which the NECEIA and EED will consider during assessment of the application (Art. 9, EIA Law). In cases where a public inquiry is held relating to the granting of the mining licence the environmental study may form part of the same hearing (Art. 9, EIA Law). The applicant must notify the administration of any information which is to be kept confidential during the public inquiry stage (Art 10, EIA Law).

The public inquiry is held in accordance with Decree No. 2-04-564. The applicant must file a request to conduct a public inquiry with the relevant RECEIA. The request must be accompanied by the following documents, prepared in both Arabic and French: a fact sheet highlighting the main technical characteristics of the project; a clear summary of the project and the main data including in the EIA study, including details of the negative and positive impacts of the project and the measures envisaged to offset the environmental impact; and a site plan of the area (Art. 2, Decree No. 2-04-564). Within 10 days of the receipt of a request, an order for the opening of the public inquiry shall be issued (Art. 3, Decree No. 2-04-564). The order shall specify: the nature of the project and its location; the population concerned within the limits of the impact area; the opening and closing date of the inquiry; the location where a copy of the application and further information may be obtained; and the details of those responsible for the inquiry (Art. 5, Decree No. 2-04-564). The order shall be issued at least 15 days prior to the opening of the inquiry and must be published in two daily newspapers and displayed in the area where the project is located (Art. 6, Decree No. 2-04-564).

The public inquiry shall be chaired by a committee, the composition of which is established by Decree (see Art. 4, Decree No. 2-04-564). For the duration of the inquiry a register shall be kept to record observations and suggestions relating to the project (Art. 7, Decree No. 2-04-564). The inquiry itself shall last for a period of 20 days, following which time a report, summarising the comments and proposals made by the public, shall be prepared; this report shall be forwarded to the NECEIA or RECEIA, depending on the nature of the project (Art. 8, Decree No. 2-04-564).

The NECEIA or RECEIA shall then review the EIA study and the findings of the public inquiry and an opinion shall be issued within 20 days of receipt of the report on the public inquiry (Arts. 11 & 21, Decree 2-04-563) or 30 days where additional information is required (Arts. 12 & 22, Decree 2-04-563). This opinion shall be forwarded to the EED, which shall, in accordance with the advice given, issue a decision on the environmental acceptability of the project. This decision shall be issued within 5 days of the receipt of the relevant committees’ findings (Arts. 11 & 21, Decree 2-04-563).

The applicant may, within a maximum period of 30 days from the date of notification of the decision on environmental acceptability, submit to the Minister of Environment a request for reconsideration of the rejection of the project; in such cases the NECEIA shall reconsider the application and issue its decision within 10 days (Art. 24, Decree 2-04-563).

Projects must be implemented within 5 years of a decision on environmental acceptability or a new EIA study shall be required (Art. 19, EIA Law).

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