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Mining Waste Directive

The Directive aims to reduce the negative effects of the management of waste from the extractive industries.

European Commission Directive 2006/21/EC covers the management of waste from the extractive industries. The Directive is usually known as the Mining Waste Directive. It was adopted on 15 March 2006.

Extracting and processing of mineral resources produces a lot of waste. It includes:

  • materials that must be removed to reach the mineral resource, such as topsoil and waste rock 
  • the remains after minerals have been extracted from ore.

The Directive came into force in England and Wales on 7 July 2009 and has been implemented in the UK through the Environmental Permitting Regulations 2010.

In Wales, Natural Resources Wales (NRW) is the regulator for the Mining Waste Directive. Information and guidance on the Directive and what you need to do if you manage extractive waste can be accessed through the NRW website.

Inventory of closed and abandoned mining waste sites

Article 20 of the Directive requires each Member State to produce an inventory of closed or abandoned mining waste sites that are causing serious environmental impacts. The inventory must be available to the public.

The Environment Agency (EA) complied the Inventory for England and Wales and a report which explains how they reviewed mining waste sites.

EA website: What’s in your backyard?

EA website: Inventory of closed mining waste facilities report (PDF)

Most of the sites on the inventory are causing (or are at risk of causing) water pollution. Water pollution from closed mining sites is caused by metals getting into rivers and groundwater. A few sites are included because they present a risk of physical instability, fire or potential health effects.

The EA and NRW in Wales are taking action to tackle water pollution from some sites. Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and Local Authorities are responsible for dealing with other types of risk. If the site is listed due to health impacts, instability or fire, the local authority or the HSE can provide more information.

Abandoned mines contribute to 8% of failures to achieve good ecological and chemical status in surface and groundwater bodies.

Legislation

The Environmental Permitting Regulations 2010 cover the requirements of the Mining Waste Directive other than some aspects on off-site emergency plans.

The Major Accident Off-Site Emergency Plan (Management of Waste from Extractive Industries) (England and Wales) Regulations 2009 (S.I. 2009 No.1927) came into force on 12 August 2009. These Regulations bring into law the requirements of Article 6 of the Directive on preparing an off-site (external) emergency plan for each Category A facility.

A category A facility is a waste facility which due to a failure or incorrect operation could lead to a major accident leading to significant loss of life, serious danger to humans and the environment.

You can get more information on the Mining Waste Directive from the European Commission website (external link).