The Minerals Act 

The purpose of the Minerals Act is to facilitate the supply of necessary metals and minerals. The act covers designated natural resources, known as ‘concession minerals’, which comprise a number of metals, as well as other substances.

Mineral deposits worth mining are hard to find. Finding and extracting them requires special skills, a great deal of money and, particularly for exploration, access to large areas of land. So in Sweden those possessing the capability to explore or mine a mineral deposit may be granted a permit to do so under the Minerals Act, regardless of who owns the land. The Chief Mining Inspector decides on permit applications. Mining requires a permit known as an ‘exploitation concession’. 

Sweden offers unique opportunities

Unique bedrock 

The bedrock of Sweden is unique, offering great potential for finding and extracting the minerals we depend on. 

Sweden mineral extraction is already an important cornerstone of our exports. Extraction of minerals reduces the country’s vulnerability to crises in international trade. The minerals sector is also very important for development of the Swedish mining equipment industry. 

In everyone’s interest

Investigating the bedrock, and sometimes the soils covering it, is called prospecting. Prospecting provides knowledge and information that may be of use to society or to enterprises in the future. This is why those carrying out prospecting must submit the information they collect to the Swedish state so it may be of benefit to others.

Sweden has had mineral laws for many hundreds of years. Companies currently engaged in mineral extraction make a direct economic contribution to Swedish society by paying taxes and charges to the state. The companies also pay ‘mineral compensation’ both to the state and to the landowner. 

What is an exploration permit?

An exploration permit under the Minerals Act gives the permit holder the sole right to survey bedrock properties in order to ascertain whether there are any deposits in the area, the nature of the deposits, their size and mining potential. The permit also gives the holder a preferential right to any deposits found. 

Prospecting 

Prospecting usually takes place in several stages, and may involve removing small samples from outcrops and ground and taking readings using various kinds of hand-held instrument. Later, when an interesting area has been identified, core samples of the bedrock may also be taken. In most cases there is very little impact on land or the environment. The permit holder must abide by a number of rules. 

Work plan 

An exploration permit does not, in itself, confer a right to perform investigations that cause harm to, or intrude on, the rights of landowners and other right holders (stakeholders). Before any such investigations can begin, the holder of an exploration permit must draw up a work plan. The plan must include an account of the exploration work planned, a timetable for the work, and an assessment of the extent to which the work may be assumed to affect public interests and individual rights. 

Before the work begins, stakeholders who are directly affected must receive a copy of the work plan. They then have three weeks to raise objections. If objections are raised, the party wishing to carry out the exploration must try to reach an agreement with the stakeholder or request that the Chief Mining Inspector affirm the work plan. 

Once all parties concerned have expressed their views, the Chief Mining Inspector then considers the matter. In most cases only small parts of the land covered by an exploration permit are affected by the exploration work. 

Minimum possible harm 

The work must be carried out so that harm and intrusion are avoided as far as possible. The permit holder must pay compensation if this nonetheless occurs. If the permit holder and the party concerned do not agree on the amount of compensation, the dissatisfied party can turn to the Chief Mining Inspector to have the matter reviewed.

An exploration permit does not confer exemption from other laws and regulations. The application procedures required depend on the type and location of work to be carried out. The permit holder must ascertain the formal requirements and ensure they are all met before work is begun. The Chief Mining Inspector’s exploration permit decision includes information about the most common requirements. 

Security for compensation 

Before prospecting begins, the prospector must provide security for any compensation payable for damage or intrusion that may be caused by the work. 

Right of public access 

The Swedish right of public access permits anyone to carry out ‘boulder prospecting’ in its simplest form without the landowner’s permission and without a special permit. Passing over land to take readings with various instruments does not normally require a permit provided, however, that no harm or intrusion occurs. 

Exploration permit – merely the first step 

Only a few areas that are prospected are found to contain mineral deposits that are worth extracting. When a deposit has been located, several extensive application procedures will be required in order to start a mine. The most important are: 

  1. Exploitation concession under the Minerals Act – decided by the Chief Mining Inspector  
    The applicant must demonstrate a deposit whose extraction is likely to be economically feasible. Extraction must not be inappropriate in relation to other public interests, such as nature protection areas, transport arteries or reindeer husbandry.  
    The application includes an environmental impact assessment. It is scrutinised by the relevant county administrative board and municipality. If the Chief Mining Inspector and the county administrative board disagree on the use of the land, the government will decide the matter.
  2. Permit subject to conditions under the Environmental Code – decided by the land and environment court 
    Mines must meet the same environmental requirements as other industrial operations. The same provisions of the Environmental Code apply to mines as to other operations impacting the environment. This application process also involves an environmental impact assessment. 
    The land and environment court sets the conditions for the operations as regards noise, dust, siting of spoil heaps, etc. Operations are usually regulated by the county administrative board, but in some cases by the municipal environment and public health committee. 
  3. Land allocation gives access to land – decided in a separate procedure by the Chief Mining Inspector 
    Land allocation links the land needed for extraction to the exploitation concession. The decision is based on agreements between the permit holder and the landowner. Land can be allocated against the wishes of the landowner or right holder, but this is uncommon. The landowner is always the party who decides whether the land will have to be purchased, or whether compensation will merely be paid for the damage and intrusion resulting from the land use. The Compulsory Purchase of Land Act governs the way that compensation is determined. If necessary, two representatives from the local area participate in the land allocation procedure.