66 weeks. That is the amount of time it took for the government to agree on the inquiry directives for the Minerals Act. A review was announced back in November 2019. This week the next step was taken when the instructions to the inquiry were published. The Swedish mining industry expresses some optimism after reviewing the document.
For many years, the Swedish mining and mineral industry has called for efforts to ensure efficient and legally secure permit processes, of which the Minerals Act is a part.
– The fact that it has been delayed until now is remarkable, in a situation when the mining industry for several years has had both potential and willingness to grow significantly more than has been possible, says Maria Sunér, CEO Svemin.
– Today’s system is a sinker for the entire industry and by extension for entire value chains in society.
This is clearly stated in the recently published list from the Fraser Institute in Canada, the mining industry’s most important benchmark index, the Investment Attractiveness Index. From being on the world’s top ten list, Sweden has plummeted – from place eight in 2016 to place 32 in 2020. Investors express concern about how the legislation is applied in this country and point to inconsistencies.
– Our hope is that the new review of the Minerals Act will lead to improved conditions for a growing mining industry in Sweden, says Maria Sunér.
The inquiry directives receive both blame and praise from the industry.
– Svemin is cautiously optimistic about the directives. It is positive that the directives say that proposed changes should not mean that the total tax burden on the mining and minerals industry increases, or that the investment climate deteriorates. However, it is not entirely clear what the government means by the directives being written for innovation-critical metals and minerals, says Kerstin Brinnen, legal counsel at Svemin.
– The large part of mining production in Sweden today is the extraction of iron ore, base- and precious metals, and also for our existing mining industry, clearer and more efficient legislation is needed.
Svemin consider it positive that a project’s societal benefit should be taken into account.
– We hope, of course, that the inquiry will propose changes that are needed to meet the special conditions that apply to mines, namely that they are site-bound. This may mean that opposing interests must be weighed against each other. In such cases, it is of course important that the legislation leaves room to weigh the societal benefits that a mine generates, and not just to assess the project according to its local environmental impact, says Kerstin Brinnen.
The inquiry is not limited to the Minerals Act, and it is difficult to say what that means.
– An inquiry is already underway to streamline and modernize the Environmental Code and it is not entirely clear how the two inquiries relate to each other.
The industry notes that the revision of the Environmental Code is to some extent unfortunate designed.
– There is an obvious need to also review how the organization of the Land and Environmental Courts works and how the handling of cases can be changed to streamline the environmental review process. It simply requires a holistic view of these issues to create real improvements in the system, says Kerstin Brinnen.
> MORE INFORMATION
Learn more and download the inquiry directive at regeringen.se (Swe.)
Read the press release from the Ministry of Enterprise and Innovation (Swe.)