The government is now tackling the Natura 2000 problem and abolishing the requirement for a Natura 2000 permit before a processing concession. This was announced by Minister for Business, Industry and Innovation, Karl-Petter Thorwaldsson at a press conference on Friday morning. The change is welcomed by the industry, which has requested this for several years.
– It is a very positive message. Several projects have stalled due to ambiguities in how the process should be conducted. The proposal is very good, without the environment being left behind in any way, says Maria Sunér, CEO of Svemin.
The change is a consequence of the high-profile Laver case, where Bergsstaten and later the government made the assessment that a Natura 2000 permit must be examined in connection with an application for a processing concession. It created a new and aggravating practice; a Natura 2000 permit would be required even before an application for a processing concession could be made. Already in April 2021, the Riksdag made an announcement to the government that they wanted to see a clarification that this would not be necessary.
– We are relieved that the government is now finally acting. A Natura 2000 test at a premature stage becomes almost cosmetic because it will probably need to be redone in connection with the next step, the environmental examination. One had to make a large number of assumptions about the deposit, the land and the water, says Maria Sunér. It affected our status as an attractive mining nation in a clearly negative way.
The purpose of the change presented on Friday is thus to change the law so that a Natura 2000 permit, in cases where such a permit is required, should not be a prerequisite for obtaining a processing concession.
– We do not mind strict environmental legislation, but the process must work efficiently and it is important to emphasize that the Natura 2000 test does not disappear, but is instead carried out later in the process, says Maria Sunér.
– Our only criticism is that it took so long to decide on the change. There is enormous pressure on raw material issues right now, both to cope with the green transition where metal and minerals are absolutely crucial but also in view of the changing geopolitical situation in Europe.
Anything that can make it easier to meet the enormous demand is therefore welcome.
Other good news for the mining and minerals industry came earlier this week when the Riksdag on Thursday decided on another one-year covid extension of exploration permits. This is in light of the fact that during the corona pandemic it was very difficult to carry out the exploration work required by the Minerals Act to be able to proceed in the process.
Before a mine can be started, a number of different permits are required. Very simply, the process can be divided into three main steps. First, an exploration permit is required to obtain the exclusive right to prospect (examine the land). Thereafter, a processing concession is required. It gives the exclusive right to open a mine in the area. The last step is an environmental permit that is decided in court and which establishes the conditions for the mining operations. Only then can production start.
If a mining operation is deemed to affect a nearby Natura 2000 area, a special Natura 2000 permit is also required. What the government has now decided on is that a Natura 2000 permit should not be a requirement for stage two (processing concession). The content and scope of the Natura 2000 trial are not affected by the change and must be made in accordance with the same legislation, but it makes it possible for the examination to take place in connection with step three, ie. the examination of the environmental permit.
The change is implemented through an investigation, led by investigator Inge Karlström, councilor at Nacka District Court. The investigation must be reported no later than 28 February 2023. Thereafter, the changes may take effect.