SWEDEN - MINING REGULATIONS
Sweden, officially the Kingdom of Sweden, is located in Northern Europe, bordered by Norway to the west, Finland to the northeast, the Gulf of Bothnia to the east and the Baltic Sea to the south, with the Oresund Bridge and the Drogden tunnel collectively linking the country to Denmark. Sweden joined the European Union in January 1995 following a referendum; in 2003 a second referendum was held which resulted in the country retaining the Swedish Krona, rather than joining the Eurozone.
Sweden has a strong economy, although economic issues in other European countries have impacted its economic growth in recent years. The country’s economy relies heavily on foreign trade; refined petroleum, motor vehicles, medicaments and telephones feature in Sweden’s top exports. Key industries include telecommunications, pharmaceuticals, forestry and engineering, as well as mining.
Sweden is considered to be one of the most ‘mineral rich’ regions in Europe. It is a top-ten world producer of iron ore and the largest producer of both iron ore and lead in Europe; it is also Europe’s second largest gold, zinc and silver producer and the fourth largest producer of copper (Business Sweden). The country has three main mining regions: Norrbotten, Västerbotten and Bergslagen. Norrbotten - the northernmost province of Sweden parts of which lie within the Arctic circle - is the primary region for iron ore and state-owned mining company LKAB have been operating there for more than 100 years.
Sweden is rated 3rd in the Fraser Institute’s Policy Perception Index 2015.
PRINCIPAL LEGISLATION AND REGULATOR
The Minerals Act (Minerallagen) and the Minerals Ordinance (Mineralförordningen), both of which entered into force in 1992 and were amended as recently as 2014, are the principle pieces of mining legislation in Sweden. The industry is overseen by the Mining Inspectorate, which is part of the Geological Survey of Sweden (SGU). The Mining Inspectorate is responsible for issuing exploration permits and exploitation concessions and deciding on all matters under the Minerals Act.
GRANTS AND FORMS OF MINERAL TITLE
Under the Minerals Act (MA), it is not necessary to obtain an exploration permit in order to conduct exploration activities (Ch. 1, s. 4, and Ch. 3, s. 2, MA) and considerable rights in this regard are awarded to the landowner. That said, any person, national or foreign may apply for mineral titles in Sweden. The following mineral titles are available:
- Exploration Permit: EXP’s are awarded if there is reason to assume that exploration of the area could lead to the discovery of a concession mineral but shall not be granted to persons “manifestly lacking the possibility or intention of bringing about appropriate exploration” (Ch. 2, s. 2, MA). An EXP grants the holder the exclusive right to explore in the area for the specific minerals covered by the licence (Ch. 2, s. 4, MA); other exploration permits may be granted in the area for minerals not covered by the existing right “if special reasons exist” (Ch. 2, s. 4, MA), however priority of right shall be granted to the original permit holder whose work “may not be impeded or delayed by work undertaken on the basis of a right established at a later date” (Ch. 3, s. 8, MA). EXP’s are granted for a specific area not exceeding that which the holder “may be assumed to be able to explore in an appropriate manner” (Ch. 2, s. 1, MA) for an initial period of three years (Ch. 2, s. 5, MA). Various extensions are possible - in the first instance for a period of not more than three years, where appropriate exploration has taken place; a second extension may then be granted for not more than four years, where “special reasons” exist; a third extension of not more than five years may be granted if “extraordinary reasons” exist (Ch. 2, s. 7, MA). The application for the EXP must be accompanied by a plan of operations containing an account of the exploration work, a timetable for works and an assessment of the extent to which the work may affect public interests and private rights (Ch. 3, s. 5, MA; see also ss. 1 and 9a-9b, Minerals Ordinance (MO)). An EXP may be transferred with the consent of the Mining Inspectorate (see Ch. 6, s. 1, MA). EXP holders have priority of right in obtaining exploitation concessions.
- Exploitation Concession: An EC shall be granted where a deposit has been found which can probably be utilised on an economic basis and the location and nature of the deposit does not make granting of the EC inappropriate (Ch. 4, s. 2, MA). An application for an EC must contain (amongst other information): details of the concession mineral(s); information on the properties affected by the application; details of the impact of operations on public and private interests; a plan of operations; and the conditions which, in the applicants opinion, should apply to the operations (s. 17, MO). A report on exploration work shall also be provided (s. 18, MO). EC’s are granted for an area determined on the basis of what is appropriate, taking into account the size of the deposit, purpose of the concession and other circumstances (Ch. 4, s. 1, MA). The concession shall be granted for a period of 25 years, unless a shorter period is requested; renewals for further 10-year periods are possible, providing regular exploitation is continuing at the time of renewal or in other circumstances where exploitation work is not in progress or extension is in the public interest (Ch. 4, ss. 9-10, MA). An EC may be transferred with the consent of the Mining Inspectorate (Ch. 6, s. 1, MA; see also s. 25, MO).
The MA contains a broad requirement to carry out exploration work in such a way as to cause the least possible damage to and encroachment on any person’s property; explorationists must provide a work plan in Swedish containing details such as a timetable for work; an assessment on the impact of the work on public interests and private rights; and an assessment of the damage and intrusion will be caused by the exploration work, how it will be addressed and what securities will be provided. A copy of the work plan must be provided to the landowner (as well as the Mining Inspector) and any other relevant parties with special rights under the MA; any objections must be made in writing to the rights holder within three weeks. A work plan will become valid if no objections are made or if an agreement is reached with the landowner. In cases where objections are made the Mining Inspector will decide upon the work plan. If required a notice must be served on the landowner before works begin (at least one week in advance) and when they conclude (see Ch. 3, s. 3, et seq., MA). The owner may consent to the work with or without compensation; otherwise compensation is determined pursuant to Ch. 7 of the MA (Ch. 3, ss. 1 et seq., MA). Disputes regarding compensation shall be addressed by the Mining Inspectorate (Ch. 8, s. 8, MA). EXP holders also have the right to build necessary roads and buildings to advance work (Ch. 3, s. 3, MA).
EC holders must obtain a designation of land for exploitation. The Mining Inspectorate can allow usage of the land while designation proceedings are in progress, as long as a security is provided (Ch. 5, s. 1 Ma; see also Ch. 9, s. 36, MA). The EC holder must cover costs of affected parties and the State where applicable in respect of land designation proceedings. Compensation shall be paid for damages resulting from the granting of the concession and for damage or encroachment resulting from land usage (Ch. 7 ss. 1-4, MA). Disputes regarding compensation are handled by the Mining Inspectorate and compensation issues are, where possible, addressed during land designation proceedings. Where agreements are reached between rights holders and landowners, land designation shall be made in accordance with such agreements (Ch. 9, s. 2, MA). Appeals against land designation and compensation decisions are possible and are made to the relevant land court (Ch. 16, s. 1, MA).
An EIA is required as part of the application for an EC and failure to provide such assessment will result in an application being refused (Ch. 4, s. 2, MA; see also s. 20, MO). The EIA process is governed by the Environmental Code of 1998. The requirements for the application are clearly given, although timings for the obtainment of environmental permits are not provided.
EC holders must pay annual mineral compensation, equal to 0.002% of the calculated value of the mineral(s) covered by the EC extracted during the year (Ch. 7, s. 7, MA). Details on the determination of average pricing are outlined in the MO (see s. 48, MO). 75% of compensation shall be paid to the property owner(s) and the remaining 25% will be paid to the State (Ch. 7, s. 7, MA).
See Sweden - Environmental Overview Commentary.