Four ordinances from April 13, 2022 were published in the official gazette on April 14, 2022 defining the new legal framework applicable to French mining rights. Enactment of these ordinances has been long-awaited by the industry stakeholders and modifies, inter alia, the liability and sanctions regimes for mining exploration and operation and the legal regime applicable to mining titles and underground storage.
This reform also amends specifically the provisions related to mining operating permits in overseas departments, i.e. Guadeloupe, French Guiana, La Réunion, Martinique and Mayotte (repealing the former mining operating permit regime) and adds dedicated provisions related to French Guiana, in particular related to the granting of exploration authorizations on State domain. New Caledonia is little impacted by the reform.
1. Ordinance n° 2022-534 related to the environmental authorization of mining works;
2. Ordinance n° 2022-535 related to mechanisms for compensation and reparations for mining damages;
3. Ordinance n° 2022-536 amending the mining model and legal regimes under the mining code; and
4. Ordinance n° 2022-537 related to overseas adaptations of the mining code.
Save for certain specific provisions contained in the relevant ordinances, the following ordinances come into effect the day after their publication on the 15th of April 2022:
- ordinance n° 2022-535 pertaining to mechanisms for compensation and reparations for mining damages; and
- ordinance n° 2022-537 pertaining to overseas adaptations of the mining code.
The effective date of the two remaining ordinances is delayed as set out below, except for certain provisions in these ordinances with specific effective dates:
- January 1, 2023 for ordinance n° 2022-534, pertaining to the environmental authorization of mining works; and
- the earlier of the effective date of its implementing decree, and January 1, 2024, for ordinance n° 2022-536, amending the mining model and legal regimes under the mining code.
Enacted pursuant to article 81 of law n° 2021-1104 from August 22, 2021 to fight climate change and reinforce resilience against its effects, these four ordinances redefine the French mining legal framework, notably by:
- specifying that the liability of the mining operator or explorer is not limited to the perimeter or term of the mining title;
- revising the legal regime applicable to exploitation authorizations in overseas departments, i.e. Guadeloupe, French Guiana, La Réunion, Martinique and Mayotte (including conditions for environmental assessment) and repealing the former mining operating permit regime in overseas departments;
- adding specific provisions for French Guiana related, in particular, to granting exploration authorizations in the State domain, providing notably that they are granted following a competitive tender (i) on an area that cannot exceed 3km2; (ii) and for a maximum term of 2 years;
- making minor corrections on mining regime applicable to New Caledonia;
- reinforcing the sanctions applicable to a mining operator or explorer, including cases where they have not complied with their obligations related to the end of works;
- modernizing the merger procedures of contiguous mining titles;
- setting the maximum duration of an exclusive research permit to 15 years;
- extending the legal regime for underground storage to include new substances; and
- adding "natural hydrogen" to the list of mining substances.
A ratification bill will need to be submitted to Parliament within a period of three months from the publication of the ordinances.
Implementing decrees for the ordinances are also awaited in order to specify the terms and conditions applicable to certain provisions.
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