The Commission has published a proposal for a directive on the management of waste from the extractive industries, covering both the operational lifetime of a mine and after its closure.

The proposal includes the setting of minimum requirements, additional conditions for permits and the requirement for operators to provide financial guarantees to cover the cost of remediation in the event of any environmental damage.

Calls for new legislative controls came after a number of serious mining accidents highlighted problems with policy relating to mining waste – the Baia Mare accident in Romania (2000) and the Aznalcóllar accident in Spain (1998) for example. Mining waste is acknowledged to represent one of the EU’s largest waste streams, accounting for about 29% of total waste generated each year.

The EU’s 15 member states are world-scale producers of a selection of minerals and metals, including feldspar, lignite, salt, potash, kaolin, talc and pyrophyllite, fluorspar, zinc and lead. With EU enlargement about to occur, the relevance of mining will increase and it will be even more important to ensure that mining waste is adequately covered by EU policy.

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