Mineral Resources Act (“MinroG”)
The basis of the Austrian mining law is the Mineral Resources Act - MinroG of 1999.
It applies, in principle, to the prospecting, extraction and treatment of the freely mineable, federally owned and freehold mineral resources, the search for and exploration of geological structures to be used for the storage of liquid or gaseous hydrocarbons (i.e. petroleum and natural gas), the subterranean containerless storage of such hydrocarbons as well as to the treatment of the stored hydrocarbons where it is carried out by the person authorised to store them in an operational context with the storage.
Furthermore, the Mineral Resources Act applies mutatis mutandis to the mining-technology aspects of specific activities indicated in this Act, for example to the search for and the exploration of geothermal energy as well as to the extraction of this energy or the operation of “show mines”.
Freely mineable mineral resources are defined as mineral resources which, apart from a few exceptions, are exempt from the land owner’s right of disposal and can be prospected for and extracted by anyone meeting specific requirements under the mining law. Freely mineable raw materials include inter alia iron, gypsum, coal, and magnesite.
Federally owned mineral resources are federal-state property. They include, inter alia, rock salt and hydrocarbons.
All other mineral resources are freehold mineral resources.
All that is required for the search of freely mineable and freehold mineral resources is a notification to the authority.
For the exploration and analysis of natural deposits of freely mineable mineral resources, prospecting permits (“Schurfberechtigungen”) are required. For the exploitation of deposits of freely mineable mineral resources and their appropriation, a mining authorisation (“Bergwerksberechtigung”) has to be obtained.
The prospecting and extraction of federally owned mineral resources, the prospecting and analysis of hydrocarbon-containing geological structures to be used for the storage of liquid or gaseous hydrocarbons, and the storage of such hydrocarbons in hydrocarbon-containing geological structures are reserved to the Federal Government. The latter can, for appropriate payment, transfer the exercise of its rights to persons having the necessary technological and financial means to establish and operate a mine. The Federal Minister of Agriculture, Regions and Tourism shall, in coordination with the Federal Minister of Finance, on behalf of the Federal Government, conclude a contract under the Civil Code on this matter.
The exercise of the rights of prospecting and extraction of rock salt and of the salts co-occurring with it, including the right of appropriation of these mineral resources, have been transferred to Salinen Austria Aktiengesellschaft ex lege.
For the extraction and exploitation of mineral resources (except for hydrocarbons), mining management plans (“Gewinnungsbetriebspläne”) have to be prepared, which require official approval. Holders of an approved mining management plan for the extraction of freehold mineral resources are permitted to mine.
The exercise of the mining rights is linked to special powers and duties, which are regulated in detail in the Mineral Resources Act.
Closure management plans (“Abschlussbetriebspläne”) refer to the abandonment of extraction in a mine or to the abandonment of the activities of a mining company or a major part of it.
The holder of the mining permit has to prepare a waste management plan for the minimisation, treatment, recovery and disposal of extractive waste (= “waste rock and tailings”) and notify it to the authority. The operating plan for waste management has to be reviewed every five years and adapted, if necessary.
The establishment and, under certain conditions, the operation of open-pit mining installations, as well as of galleries, shafts, drilling with drilling holes of a depth of 300 m and more and probes of a depth of 300 m and more that serve the purpose of mining, are subject to authorisation by the authority. So-called “IPPC plants” are subject to special regulations, in particular for the limitation of pollutant emissions.
Likewise, special regulations and/or additional regulations apply to mining installations serving the disposal of mining waste (“waste disposal plants”, such as heaps, clearing reservoirs etc.).
The person having the right to mine has to appoint a manager for each mining installation and, where this is necessary to ensure safe and timely supervision of the mining activities, supervisors for the technical supervision. Equally, the party entitled to mine has to appoint a responsible mine surveyor for each mining installation.
Before using the surface and near-surface area of other people’s plots for the exercise of a mining activity, the party entitled to mine has to obtain the approval of the owner of the plot.
Plots and parts of plots inside the boundaries of “Grubenmaße” and “Überscharen”, storage and extraction fields, except for those on reserves of hydrocarbons, as well as plots and parts of plots to which an approved mining management plan for freehold mineral resources relates, are considered mining areas under the law. Mining areas must be recorded in the land register. In mining areas, buildings and installations other than mining installations may be established only with a special authorisation by the authority.
If a person is killed, a person’s body or health is harmed, or if an item is damaged as a result of the mining activity, this is considered a mining damage (“Bergschaden”). There is strict liability for mining-induced damage. If the holder of the mining permit proves that he/she did not cause the mining damage, he/she is exempt from liability.
Unless expressly provided otherwise, the competent authority for the surface-only extraction and treatment of freehold mineral resources is the district administration authority. For all other activities to which the Mineral Resources Act applies, the competent body is the Federal Minister of Agriculture, Regions and Tourism (Mining Authority). The tasks of the authorities include, inter alia, the ordering of safety measures, if persons, other people’s things or the environment are endangered due to mining activities.
Important regulations under the mining law and other regulations of relevance to the Austrian mining industry of the Federal Government (as of February 2020)
The text of the applicable version of the regulations listed below is available on the internet (Legal Information System “RIS” of the Federal Government).
- The applicable mining law is based on the Austrian Mineral Resources Act (“Mineralrohstoffgesetz”, MinroG), Federal Law Gazette I No 38/1999, which entered into force on 1 January 1999, as amended by Federal Law Gazette I No 184/1999, Federal Law Gazette I No 98/2001, Federal Law Gazette I No 21/2002, Federal Law Gazette I No 85/2005, Federal Law Gazette I No 84/2006, Federal Law Gazette I No 113/2006, Federal Law Gazette I No 115/2009, Federal Law Gazette I No 65/2010, Federal Law Gazette I No 111/2010, Federal Law Gazette I No 144/2011, Federal Law Gazette I No 129/2013, Federal Law Gazette I No 40/2014, Federal Law Gazette I No 80/2015, Federal Law Gazette I No 95 /2016, and Federal Law Gazette I No 104/2019 as well as the Announcement of Federal Law Gazette I No 83/2003. Through § 15 of Article XXXII of the Non-Contentious Proceedings Act (“Außerstreit-Begleitgesetz”), Federal Law Gazette I No 112/2003, the competence for the decision about compensation in cases of compulsory transfer of property has been transferred from the district administrative authority to the regional court.
- Until the new regulation of the area concerned or a modification by ordinance the following ordinances continue to apply due to a transitional provision in the Mineral Resources Act:
- Ordinance on the measures to be taken in mining operations to protect the life and the health of persons and to protect items (General Mining Police Ordinance), Federal Law Gazette I No 114/1959 as amended by Federal Law Gazette I No 21/2002 and the Ordinance Federal Law Gazette II No. 416/2010
- Ordinance on the measures to be taken in ropeway mining installations for the protection of life and health of persons (Mining Police Ordinance for Cable Mining), Federal Law Gazette I No 14/1968 as amended by Federal Law Gazette I No 21/2002
- Ordinance on open-cut mining and dimensional fees, Federal Law Gazette I No 224/1976 as amended by Federal Law Gazette I No 21/2002
- Ordinance on the redefinition of the protected area for the medicinal springs of Bad Hall, Federal Law Gazette I No 624/1987 as amended by Federal Law Gazette I No 21/2002
- Ordinance on the use of electrical equipment and installations in the mining industry (Mining Police Ordinance for Electrical Engineering), Federal Law Gazette I No 737/1996, as amended by Federal Law Gazette I No 21/2002 and Ordinance Federal Law Gazette II No 309/2004 (see also § 16 para. 4 of Ordinance Federal Law Gazette II No 33/2012)
3. On the basis of the Mineral Resources Act, the following ordinances were adopted:
- Ordinance on measures to ensure the safety of persons in the construction and operation of exhibition mines or comparable uses of mine workings of disused mines for purposes other than the extraction of mineral raw materials (Exhibition Mines Ordinance), Federal Law Gazette II No 209/2000, as amended by Ordinance Federal Law Gazette II No 298/2006
- Ordinance on the placing on the market of explosives and on basic safety requirements for explosives (Explosives Ordinance), Federal Law Gazette II No 27/2001, as amended by Ordinance Federal Law Gazette II No 303/2011
- Ordinance on the measures to be taken in borehole mining (Borehole Mining Ordinance), Federal Law Gazette II No 367/2005, as amended by Ordinance Federal Law Gazette II No 437/2012
- Ordinance on safety distances from hydrocarbon mining installations and installations for comparable activities, Federal Law Gazette II No 56/2006, as amended by Ordinance Federal Law Gazette II No 304/2015
- Ordinance enacting regulations on vehicle drivers for tourist travel and for the operation of certain healing galleries (Passenger Transport Mining Ordinance), Federal Law Gazette II No 298/2006
- Ordinance on the designation of land and parts of land as mining areas, Federal Law Gazette II No 6/2007
- The corollary E-PRTR Ordinance (“E-PRTR-Begleitverordnung”), Federal Law Gazette II No 380/2007
- Ordinance issuing regulations on blasting in mining (Mining Blasting Ordinance), Federal Law Gazette II No 60/2009
- Ordinance adopting provisions on the management of waste from mining (Mining Waste Ordinance), Federal Law Gazette II No 130/2010, as amended by Ordinance Federal Law Gazette II No 132/2013
- Ordinance on responsible persons in mining 2017, Federal Law Gazette II No 96/2017
- Ordinance on the storage of explosives in mines (Mining Explosives Storage Ordinance), Federal Law Gazette II No 459/2011
- Ordinance on Surveying in Mining, Mining Mapping and the Recording of Ground Movements (“Markscheideverordnung 2013”), Federal Law Gazette II No 437/2012
- Ordinance on the control of major-accident hazards involving dangerous substances in mining companies (Mining Accident Ordinance), Federal Law Gazette II No 304/2015
- Ordinance on equipment and protective systems for intended use in potentially explosive atmospheres (Explosion Protection Ordinance 2015), Federal Law Gazette II No 52/2016
- Ordinance on electromagnetic compatibility 2015, Federal Law Gazette II No 22/2016
- Low Voltage Equipment Ordinance 2015, Federal Law Gazette II No 21/2016
- Federal law on the mining badge of honour, Federal Law Gazette I No 63/1954, as amended by Federal Law Gazette I No 136/2001, and the Ordinance on the decoration of the honorary mining badge and the award procedure, Federal Law Gazette No 198/1954
- Deposit Act, Federal Law Gazette I No 246/1947 as amended by Federal Law Gazette I No 136/2001
- Federal law on the prohibition of geological storage of carbon dioxide, Federal Law Gazette I No 144/2011
- Energy Infrastructure Act, Federal Law Gazette I No 4/2016