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France: New Mining Code Under Consideration

(Dec. 23, 2013) On September 5, 2012, the French Prime Minister, Jean-Marc Ayrault, created a working group to elaborate an in-depth reform of the French Mining Code. This working group, which consisted of elected officials, jurists, representatives from non-government organizations, and representatives from the industrial sector, as well as other concerned social actors and experts, submitted its final report and a suggested new mining code to the government on December 10, 2013. (Marie-Béatrice Baudet, Bientôt un code minier plus vert?, LE MONDE (Dec. 10, 2013).) It is expected that a draft law based on this report and the proposed new mining code will be discussed by the French Council of Ministers (Conseil des Ministres) during the first trimester of 2014 and submitted to Parliament in the spring. (Réforme du code minier: un projet de loi devant le Parlement au printemps 2014, ACTU-ENVIRONNEMENT (Dec. 10, 2013).)

The proposed new mining code would replace the current mining code, which originally was adopted in 1810 and is considered quite outdated. (Baudet, supra.) This reform is designed to make French mining law more consistent with the Environmental Charter (a 2004 text, of constitutional value, recognizing certain rights and duties regarding environmental protection, LEGIFRANCE (last visited Dec. 23, 2013)), and to provide more legal security for mining companies. (Environnement : le projet de nouveau code minier, VIE PUBLIQUE (Dec. 12, 2013).)

The proposed new code maintains the basic principle of French mining law whereby undersoil resources belong to the state. (Projet de Réforme du Code Minier, Note de Synthèse des Propositions de Thierry Tuot, Ministère de l’écologie, du développement durable et de l’énergie [Ministry of Ecology, Sustainable Development and Energy] website (Dec. 10, 2013), at 3.) It suggests some important reforms, however, such as having new extractive activity be approved at the ministerial level rather than by the local prefects, as is currently the case. (Id.) The proposed new code also would increase public information and participation with regard to extractive operations (id. at 4), simplify administrative procedures related to extractive activity (id. at 5), ensure that environmental concerns are better taken into account (id.), and improve the management of closed and exhausted mines (id. at 6).

The text of the proposed new mining code does not appear to be available online as yet. A summary of the final report is, however, available on the website of the French Ministry of Ecology, Sustainable Development and Energy. (Id.)