Minerals and petroleum legislation, policy and statutory rules

Minerals and petroleum prospecting in Northern Ireland is permitted in accordance with specific legislation, policies and statutory rules

Mineral prospecting legislation

The specific pieces of legislation are:

Copies of the above legislation are available at: Minerals and petroleum legislation and policy

Review of minerals and petroleum licensing policies

DfE has begun a wide ranging review of both minerals and petroleum licensing policies. The legislation surrounding both licensing regimes dates back to the 1960’s and the review is intended to ensure that the regimes remain fit for purpose. The ongoing review is intended to ensure that the licensing regimes continue to be effective in delivering key Programme for Government objectives, including that we prosper through a strong, competitive, regionally balanced economy and that we live and work sustainably – protecting the environment. 

The strategic issues of climate change and the setting of challenging decarbonisation targets for the UK and Northern Ireland, as well as the planned new energy strategy will also be factored into the review process. 


DfE is in the process of procuring research into the economic, societal and environmental impacts of future onshore petroleum exploration and production, including Unconventional Oil and Gas (UOG), in Northern Ireland.  The research will consider relevant contemporary qualitative and quantitative information and research across economic, social and environmental issues and will focus on the interaction between these factors in determining the viability of onshore petroleum and, separately, UOG development.  The results of the research will be used to formulate evidence-based policy options and provide Ministers with the information needed to make fully informed decisions about future petroleum development.


DfE is in the process of procuring research into the economic, societal and environmental impacts of mineral exploration and mining, in Northern Ireland. The Specification for the research will be published once the procurement process is complete.

Lignite policy

Government policy generally in relation to lignite is reflective of the fact that the extensive reserves are of strategic significance to Northern Ireland. A considerable amount of data has been compiled as a result of exploration activity over the past two decades and this has led the Department of the Economy (DfE) to suspend the issue of any further prospecting licences for lignite in the Ballymoney area. The position will be reviewed in three years.

In the event of a company lodging an application for a mining licence or lease, it will continue to be necessary for that company to obtain planning and other statutory approvals, dependant on the nature of the operation, before a licence or lease would be granted.

Planning policy in relation to lignite mining seeks to balance the economic benefits with environmental effects. Applications would therefore be required to be accompanied by an environmental statement which details the likely significant effects of the proposal and mitigation measures. The attached guidance should also be considered.

The UK’s Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI)

EITI is an international initiative to improve the transparency of payments by extractive businesses to governments. Its website can be viewed at:

Since 2015, at official level, DfE has provided the EITI secretariat with information on Northern Ireland activities with regard to the extraction of minerals (including gold, silver, base metals and industrial minerals as well as stone, gravel and other aggregates from Northern Ireland mines and quarries). Currently DfE sits on the Multi Stakeholder Group (MSG) of UKEITI as a government representative.

The UK’s Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative annual reports

The UK’s EITI Secretariat published on 20 December 2019 its fifth UK EITI report covering the year 2018. This report includes a contextual report describing the activities of the extractive industries in the UK and provides information about the value and importance of the industry to the UK.

Statutory Rules 2010

On 30 April 2010, the Department made two new Statutory Rules.

The Hydrocarbons Licensing Directive Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2010

The Hydrocarbons Licensing Directive Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2010 implement Council Directive 94/22/EC in Northern Ireland by introducing new arrangements and requirements for granting and using licences relating to the prospection, exploration and production of hydrocarbons.

The Petroleum Production (Amendment) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2010

The Petroleum Production (Amendment) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2010 amend the existing Petroleum Production Regulations (Northern Ireland) 1987 to complement the Hydrocarbons Licensing Directive Regulations by introducing new requirements for applications for petroleum licences and new provisions for licences.

The amendments will bring licensing arrangements here more closely into line with those in Great Britain.

Both sets of Regulations were laid before the Assembly on 5th May 2010 and came into operation on 28 May 2010. 


Related to Minerals and petroleum legislation, policy and statutory rules

Access to information

How to request information from the Department for the Economy including Freedom of Information (FOI) and the use of our Publication Scheme.

Back to top