Analysis of Legislation and Policies of the European Union on Acid Mine Drainage

Europe has a long tradition of mining activities, dating back as far as records of human settlement in Europe with the development of flint mines in France over 10,000 years ago (Wolkersdorfer and Bowell, 2004). In other words, mining activities have been of interest in the history of the European community from the very beginning (Hamor, 2004). Though Europe has a long and rich history of mining, there are now significantly more abandoned mines than operational mines across the continent (Jarvis et al.,

  • 2012). Consequently, considerable attention is focused on addressing the environmental legacy problems associated with these orphan sites (Jarvis et al., 2012). This implies that though the European mining policies have been shaped by the historical importance of mining for industrial development, the relatively recent introduction of environmental concerns in public policy has also changed the discourse (Amezaga and Kroll, 2005). Therefore, in addition to general industrial regulations, the European Union (EU) has adopted some legislations specific to mining (Szczepanski, 2012). In other words, the EU has developed a set of environmental directives that have had a significant effect on the mining industries of member nations (McKinley,
  • 2004); and these rules concern the environmental impact of mining (especially waste and groundwater), as well as occupational health and safety (Szczepanski, 2012).
  • Analysis of Legislative Instruments and Policies of the European Union

This section deals with a selected number of existing EU legislative instruments pertaining to mining, environment and water management. However, according to Jarvis et al. (2012), two key legislative instruments which are influential in driving environmental improvements are the EU Water

Framework Directive (2000/60/EC) and EU Directive on the Management of Waste from the Extractive Industries (2006/21/EC). These two major pieces of legislation are subject to transposition (or transferring) into national regulations across individual states of the EU and are, therefore, subject to slight differences in application between nations. Nevertheless, the underlying principles apply across all EU member states. Water Framework Directive

The Water Framework Directive (WFD) addresses concerns similar to those of the Clean Water Act (Ndlovu et al., 2017) of the United States. The EU WFD, adopted in 2000, takes a pioneering approach to protecting water based on natural geographical formations: river basins (EU Directive, 2000). The WFD obliges member states to draw up river basin management plans (RBMPs) to safeguard each of the 110 river basin districts. Under the WFD, member states have to hold extensive consultations with the public and interested parties to identify the problems, the solutions and their costs, to be included in river basin management plans. Public support and involvement is a precondition for the protection of waters. Without popular backing, regulatory measures will not succeed. European citizens have a key role to play in the implementation of the WFD and in helping governments to balance the social, environmental and economic questions to be taken into account.

Kroll et al. (2002) argue that the effects of mining on water are not addressed categorically in the WFD. The only specific reference to mine water in WFD is found in Article 11 (j), which allows reinjection of mine-derived water into the same aquifer (Kroll et al., 2002). Thus, despite being theoretically applicable to mine water management, emergent practices relative to implementation of the WFD require clarification. Waste Framework Directive

Directive 2008/98/EC on waste (Waste Framework Directive) sets the basic concepts and definitions related to waste management, such as definitions of waste, by-products, recycling and recovery (EU Directive, 2008). It explains when waste ceases to be waste and becomes a secondary raw material (so-called end-of waste criteria). The Directive also lays down some basic waste management principles (polluter pays principle, extended producer responsibility). Extractive Waste Directive

According to EU Directive (2006), in the EU, wastes derived from the extraction and refining industries are regulated under the Extractive Waste Directive 2006/21/EC ("the Directive" or "EWD"). In the Directive, extractive waste is defined as

waste resulting from the prospecting, extraction, treatment and storage

of mineral resources and the working of quarries.

In terms of what is "waste", the EWD makes reference to the definition as provided by the Waste Framework Directive 2008/98/EC as

any substance or object which the holder discards or intends or is required to discard.

The Directive provides for measures, procedures and guidance to prevent or reduce as far as possible any adverse effects on the environment, in particular, water, air, soil, fauna and flora and landscape, and any resultant risks to human health, brought about as a result of the management of waste from the extractive industries (EU Directive, 2006).

The scope of the Directive covers extractive waste as already defined, including waste rock (unused extraction product), and mine tailings which are defined in the Extractive Waste Directive as:

waste solids or slurries that remain after the treatment of minerals by separation processes (e.g. crushing, grinding, size-sorting, flotation and other physico-chemical techniques) to remove the valuable minerals from the less valuable rock. Other Directives

Amongst other key directives are the Environmental Impact Assessment Directive (similar to the EIS requirements of the United States), and Hazardous Waste, and Landfill Directives (all including the Waste Framework address concerns similar to those of the US RCRA). Summary

Mining operations and the disposal of mining wastes have sometimes caused significant environmental and social damage. Some communities and indigenous groups living near mines in the EU have alleged human rights abuses due to pollution from mining activities (Scanned, 2012). Therefore, appropriate EU legislation and policies should strongly influence approaches to mine waste/water management in Europe. However, because European-wide legislation is subject to national-level transposition and implementation, the overall picture of mine waste/water management in Europe is complex (Jarvis et al., 2012). There are, nevertheless, some research and development themes that are common across Europe and are wide ranging (Jarvis et al., 2012). For example, the partnership for acid drainage remediation in Europe (PADRE) is one of the research strategies whose main aim is to act as a repository for capturing the wide variety of R&D activities. It also ensures that researchers, consultants and mining industry personnel are not only aware of both the historic and current outputs of the R&D, but also avoid replication of effort. The specific objectives of PADRE as stated in its statutes include (1) to provide a network and collaborative platform for European and international research and development into techniques for the prediction, prevention and remediation of acidic drainage in Europe, (2) to promote dissemination of knowledge of current best-practice and innovations relating to acidic drainage prediction, prevention and remediation, with particular reference to European conditions, including the evolving framework of relevant EU legislation, (3) to advance the training of present and future generations of European professionals who will engage in the art and science of acidic drainage prediction, prevention and remediation and (4) to actively collaborate with a Global Alliance of organisations based in other continents which share similar objectives (Jarvis et al., 2012).

As can be seen from the EU directives and PADRE, the efforts of the EU on issues of mining, environment and water management legislations seem to be well coordinated. In fact, each country's environmental laws are derived from the EU directives; and PADRE is endeavouring to ensure that professionals developing solutions to mining pollution are aware of the complimentary work of others across Europe, and that internationally significant work conducted in Europe is effectively rolled out to a global audience. This clearly shows that the EU has adopted advanced regulations to improve environmental standards in mining. For example, the EU documents on best available techniques that are designed to significantly reduce environmental impacts are readily available.

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