The Energy and Petroleum Commission of the National Assembly approved in its first discussion the Mining Law, which proposes a legal instrument with clear and transparent rules, which places the country at the forefront of good practice according to international regulations on responsible mining and also allows the development of its maximum potential and promotes the mining industry.
This was announced by the president of the parliamentary committee, Elías Matta, who explained the importance of this law that will ensure the country the use of responsible practices and the development and implementation of comprehensive certification schemes for minerals. “Mining activity can be developed while taking care of the environment and one of our greatest challenges is its transformation towards sustainable mining.”
Congressman Matta explained that, during the last nine years of the Gold Reserve Law combined with the almost 21 years of the current Mining Law, the mining sector in Venezuela has been clouded, mining institutions have been completely weakened, there has been an overwhelming growth of illegal mining, and serious damage to the environment.
“All this added to an excess of decrees and resolutions that have been issued in the last 4 years, whose only purpose has been to adapt the legislation to particular interests, which is of course contrary to the principle of legal security and due transparency”.
In view of this situation, it was considered fundamental to establish a new legal framework to ensure the country the use of responsible practices and the development and implementation of comprehensive certification schemes for minerals.
Highlights of the new Mining Law
It regulates all metallic minerals and precious stones existing in the national territory, whatever the origin, location or presentation. Except for non-metallic minerals which are the responsibility of the States where they are found.
It opens the door to national and foreign private investment. Encourages Responsible Mining and the implementation of comprehensive Mineral Certification schemes. Establishes as a principle that mining activities should be carried out using environmental sustainability strategies, prioritizing the prevention of pollution and environmental remediation.
It recognizes and encourages citizen participation and social responsibility in mining projects and the recognition of Indigenous Communities interests. The implementation of mining projects will seek the integration of indigenous communities and native peoples. Mining activities will be carried out without harming their cultural, social and economic integrity.
It foresees the possibility of resorting to International Arbitration as an alternative means of conflict resolution.
It establishes the Inter-territorial Coordination between the National and Regional Executive for the use of non-metallic minerals that are found in areas where mining rights have been granted.
The Governing Body of the mining sector will be the Ministry with competence in mining matters, which will be responsible for planning, promoting and formulating public policies.
It will create the National Mining Registry, which will part of an autonomous body or entity, for the management and administration of mining rights, the handling of registry information; processing of environmental matters (licenses); collection and distribution of the mining canon; keeping the information and data of the areas of mining interest updated.
It establishes areas from where mining activities are excluded, and areas where they are restricted. It establishes four Modalities for the Exploration and Mining Exploitation: 1) Exclusive and Direct Exercise by the Republic; 2) Concessions of Exploration and subsequent Exploitation; 3) Authorizations of Exploitation for the exercise of the Small Mining; and 4) Permits for Artisan Mining.
It provides for free prospecting without the need to request prior authorization from the Mining Authority, as long as it does not include mechanical excavations or drilling. The duration of mining concessions is extended to 60 years, with an initial period of 30 years, plus two possible extensions of 15 years each. The maximum area for exploration will be 12,800 ha. 6,400 ha. Also, the procedure and periods for the granting of mining titles are substantially modified.
Regarding the part of Mining and Environment, Representative Matta said that the new Mining Law plans to develop mining activities while taking care of the environment and to progress towards sustainable mining with less impact and a smaller ecological footprint. An exclusive title (chapter) has been created to regulate environmental matters.
“In this title it is established the need to previously and obligatorily obtain the respective Environmental Authorizations (AOT / AAR)for the exercise of the mining activities. Mining activities shall be carried out in accordance with the principles of viable and sustainable development, protection and conservation of the environment and land management. Soil restoration and reforestation of the affected areas is obligatory. It foresees the supervision, control, regulation and prevention of contamination and environmental remediation,” said the parliamentarian of Zulia State.
He also indicated that the mining activities will be done using scientific and technological practices that minimize the environmental impact, damage to the natural or cultural heritage and generate a healthy, safe and ecologically balanced environment.
“The discharge of waste from rubble, tailings or other untreated waste, which generates risks of environmental pollution, is prohibited. The National Institute of Geology and Mining (INGEOMIN) is strengthened by giving it other powers and increasing its budget”.
Elías Matta stated that the new mining policy in Venezuela must be supported by a regulatory framework that generates legal security and trust, that establishes competitive conditions, access to information and a strengthened, effective and efficient Mining Authority.
“A reliable legal system and a restructuring of the mining and environmental institutions that strengthens them is fundamental for the sustainable economic development of the mining sector”.
He finally said that the new Mining Law will generate timely responses, efficient supervision, promotion and encouragement of mining activities within a framework of clear rules for investors. It will also promote transparency in procedures and accountability. “The draft Mining Law establishes norms that guarantee sustainable mining activities”.