TURKEY - ENVIRONMENTAL REGULATIONS
Turkey, officially known as the Republic of Turkey, is a transcontinental state that spreads across the Europe-Asia border. It is bordered on the Asian side by Syria, Iraq, Iran, Armenia, Azerbaijan (by way of the exclave Nakhchivan) and Georgia and on the European side by Greece and Bulgaria. The Black Sea, Mediterranean Sea and Aegean Sea lie to the north, south and west of the country.
Turkey has a variable terrain and landscape. In the European part of Turkey – which amounts to less than 4% of the country – low valleys and plateaus dominate the landscape. Meanwhile, Asian Turkey is dominated by a high central plateau, though the coastal areas are primarily low and narrow plains. The country has very mountainous areas, particularly in the eastern region where Turkey’s highest peak – Mount Ararat (5,137m) can be found. From a cold semi-arid climate in the central region to a warm Mediterranean climate on the western and southern coastlines, climates in Turkey vary across the different regions.
Turkey is recognised as a country with rich biodiversity. It is home to over 9,000 species of plant , around 3,000 of which are endemic. Snowdrops, crocus, a huge range of rose species and windflowers are recognised amongst popular plants from the region. The tulip is Turkey’s national flower. Around 15% of the country is classified as forest land; fir, beech, pine and chestnut trees grow in these areas. Turkey also has a diverse range of fauna, with over 19,000 invertebrate species and 1,500 vertebrate species. Notable wildlife includes the grey wolf, fallow deer, various species of bear, fox and goat, wildcats and hyena. Several species, including the Mediterranean monk seal and the northern bald ibis, are classified as critically endangered.
Environmental issues in Turkey include air pollution, loss of biodiversity, land degradation and water pollution. The country is highly vulnerable to earthquakes due to its location in the area where the Eurasian, Arabian and African plates collide. Fault lines spread across the country, with Turkey said to experience in excess of 10,000 earthquakes per year. Over the years, earthquakes, often in excess of a 7.0 magnitude, have devastated the country.
PRINCIPAL LEGISLATION AND REGULATOR
The primary environmental laws and regulations in Turkey with relevance to the mining industry and Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) process include the: Environmental Law No. 2872/1983 (EL); the Regulation on Environmental Impact Assessment No. 29186/2014 (EIA Regulation); the Regulation on Environmental Permits and Licences No. 29115/2014 (Permit Regulation); the Mines Law No. 3213/1985 (ML); and the Mining Activities Permits Regulation No. 25852/2005. The EIA Regulation provides for the technical and administrative processes of EIAs. The legal framework is accompanied by various documentation and guidelines published by the Turkish government. Specific guidelines for the mining sector were published in 2017 (Guidelines). For many years Turkey has been attempting to join the EU; the changes to the environmental law framework in 2014 aimed to bring the Turkish legislation in line with existing EU Directives.
The Ministry of Environment and Urbanisation (Ministry) is responsible for the management and oversight of Turkey’s environment. The General Directorate of Environmental Impact Assessment, Permit and Inspection (Directorate) within the Ministry is responsible for, amongst other things: carrying out EIA and taking decisions, monitoring and supervising EIA; granting environmental permissions and licences; monitoring environmental impacts; and providing a range of supervisory services (see Art. 104, Presidential Decree 30474, 2018). EIA applications are made via an online registry system, available on the Directorate’s website.
Under the EIA Regulation, projects which are categorised under Annex I require an EIA as mandatory (Art. 7(1)(a), EIA Regulation). The following mining activities are classified under Annex I:
- Open-cast mines equal to or greater than 25 hectares in area (as a sum of excavation and dumping site) irrespective of the total licence area;
- Open coal extraction activities in areas which exceed 150 hectares;
- Ore enrichment facilities to which biological, chemical, electrolytic or heat treatment methods are applied and / or waste facilities for enrichment; and
- Facilities that make use of at least one of the processes of breaking, sieving, washing and mineral processing of over 400.00 tonnes per year (see Annex I, EIA Regulation).
Projects which are categorised under Annex II must be screened in order to determine whether or not an EIA is required (Art. 15(1)(a), EIA Regulation). The following mining activities are classified under Annex II:
- Open-cast mining in an area up to 25 hectares (as a sum of excavation and dumping site) irrespective of licence area;
- Methane gas storage and extraction over a certain volume;
- Installations where carbon dioxide, rock gas and other gases are removed, stored or processed;
- Facilities that perform at least one of the processes of crushing, screening, washing and ore preparation which are not covered under Annex I;
- Ore composting facilities and / or waste facilities related to processing / enrichment; and
- Mineral, petroleum and geothermal resource exploration projects (with some noted exceptions) (see Annex II, EIA Regulation).
In order for projects in Annex II to be screened, a Project Presentation file must be prepared by a licensed environmental consultant (Art. 16(1), EIA Regulation). The file must contain the information specified under Annex IV, which includes: general information on the project; project specifications; current environmental characteristics of the project site and area; and the environmental impacts of the project during construction and operation, including mitigation measures (Annex IV, EIA Regulation). The Project Presentation file must be submitted to the Ministry for review, which is generally carried out by the Directorate. Within five working days the file shall be reviewed and if necessary additional information shall be requested. A review will then be conducted within 15 working days. Within five working days of the review, a decision on the EIA shall be issued – “EIA Required” or “EIA Not Required” (Art. 17, EIA Regulation). Where an “EIA Not Required” decision is issued, projects must commence within five years or the decision shall be deemed null and void (Art. 17(3), EIA Regulation).
For projects under Annex I or Annex II projects which have received an “EIA Required” decision pursuant to Article 17 of the EIA Regulation, an “EIA Positive” decision must be obtained. To commence the EIA process a licensed consultant must submit an EIA application file including the content specified under Annex III, EIA Regulation which includes: general information on the project including a non-technical summary; characteristics and properties of the project; environmental impacts of the project during construction and operation and proposed mitigation measures; and information on public participation (see Annex III, EIA Regulation). The environmental consultant must also submit a power of attorney and circular of signature which show that the EIA Application file and the signatory are authorised (Art. 8(2), EIA Regulation). A preliminary review will then be conducted within five working days to ensure the file is complete; incomplete files will be returned for amendment (Art. 8(3), EIA Regulation). Upon confirmation of a complete application, the Directorate will establish a commission, involving representatives from the relevant public and governmental bodies (Art. 8(4), EIA Regulation). At this time an announcement will also be made by the Ministry (and the relevant governorship) that the EIA process has commenced, and an EIA file is ready for public comment (Art. 8(5), EIA Regulation). The EIA Application file will be passed to the commission and a date set for the Public Participation Meeting (see below) (Art. 8(6), EIA Regulation).
A Public Participation Meeting is a requirement of the EIA process (Art. 9, EIA Regulation). The meeting must take place at a location which is easily accessible by the people who are expected to be most affected by the project (Art. 9(1), EIA Regulation). A notice advertising the meeting shall be published at least 10 calendar days prior in a national and local newspaper (Art. 9(1)(a), EIA Regulation). The meeting shall serve as an opportunity for the public to be informed about the project and submit any comments, opinions, questions or suggestions (Art. 9(1)(b), EIA Regulation). A copy of the meeting minutes shall be submitted to the Ministry (Art. 9(1)(b), EIA Regulation).
The next step in the EIA process shall be the preparation of an EIA Report for submission to the Ministry. In the first instance, the scope and special format for the report shall be determined by the commission which shall issue a Special Format Form (Art. 10(1), EIA Regulation). A fee must be paid within one month of the Public Participation Meeting in order for the form to be issued (Art. 10(2), EIA Regulation). The authorised environmental consultant must then prepare the EIA Report within 12 months (Art. 10(4), EIA Regulation). An extension of six months may also be permitted. If the EIA Report is not submitted within the given timeframe, the EIA process shall be cancelled (Art. 10(4), EIA Regulation).
On submission of the EIA Report to the Ministry, an examination on whether the EIA Report meets the requirements of the Special Format and has been prepared by qualified experts will be carried out. The examination shall be carried out within five working days and incomplete reports will be returned for amendment (Art. 11(1), EIA Regulation). If the outcome of the initial examination is favourable the EIA Report shall be sent to the commission alongside information on the first review meeting. A second notice will be published alerting the public to the fact that the EIA Report is open for comment (Art. 11(2)-(3), EIA Regulation). Opinions on the EIA Report may be submitted to the Ministry for consideration by the commission (Art. 11(4), EIA Regulation).
Within 10 working days of the first review meeting the commission shall conduct a review and evaluation of the EIA Report (Art. 12(1), EIA Regulation). During this time additional information may be requested to support the EIA Report (Art. 12(3), EIA Regulation). Deficiencies and corrections must be actioned within 12 months, though a six-month extension is possible; failure to resubmit an EIA Report during this time period will result in the termination of the EIA process (Art. 12(6), EIA Regulation). During its review the commission will consider:
- If the EIA Report is adequate and appropriate;
- Whether the assessments, calculations and evaluations made are based on sufficient data, information and documents;
- Whether the environmental impact of the project has been thoroughly examined;
- Whether the necessary precautions are planned in order the eliminate the negative impacts on the environment; and
- Whether the public participation meeting and the views and suggestions have been addressed, reviewed and evaluated (Art. 12(9), EIA Regulation).
Within 10 calendar days of the commission’s review the EIA Report is submitted to the Ministry (Art. 13, EIA Regulation). The report shall then be open for public review for a further 10 calendar days – during which time opinions and proposals on the project may be submitted (Art. 14(1), EIA Regulation). These comments will be taken into consideration during the final decision on the EIA and steps may be taken by the Directorate to ensure they have been adequately addressed (Art. 14(1), EIA Regulation). A letter of commitment from the project owner and accompanying notary must be submitted within five working days or the EIA process will be terminated (Art. 14(1)-(2), EIA Regulation).
The final decision on the EIA will then be made by the Ministry via the Directorate. The decision shall be issued within 10 working days and will either be “EIA Positive” or “EIA Negative” (Art. 14(3), EIA Regulation). Where a negative decision is issued proponents may reapply if there is a change in conditions (Art. 14(5), EIA Regulation). Where a positive decision is made the project must commence within seven years (Art. 14(4), EIA Regulation).
Additional environmental permits may be required pursuant to the Permit Regulation and the Mining Activities Permits Regulation.