Mineral prospecting legislation
The specific pieces of legislation are:
- Minerals (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act (Northern Ireland) 1959
- Mineral development act 1969
- Model Clauses
- Model Clauses 1970
- Model Clauses 1986
- Model Clauses 1991
Copies of the above legislation are available at: Minerals and petroleum legislation and policy
Review of minerals and petroleum licensing policies
The Department for the Economy (DfE) has begun a wide ranging review of both minerals and petroleum licensing policies. The legislation surrounding both licensing regimes dates back to the 1960s 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.
In 2020 DfE commissioned 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 considered relevant contemporary qualitative and quantitative information and research across economic, social and environmental issues and focused on the interaction between these factors in determining the viability of onshore petroleum including UOG development. The results of the research have been used to formulate evidence-based policy options and provide Ministers with the information needed to make fully informed decisions about future petroleum development. The research is available below:
- Hatch Regeneris: The Potential Economic, Social and Environmental Impact of Onshore Petroleum Development in Northern Ireland (July 2021)
DfE has commissioned research into the economic, societal and environmental impacts of mineral exploration and mining, in Northern Ireland.
The research will collate and use relevant contemporary qualitative and quantitative information and research on the economic, social and environmental aspects of the mineral life cycle (from exploration to mine development through to mine closure and restoration). In addition, the research will consider the relevant strategic policy context, the global demand and supply position for minerals and NI’s potential prospectivity. The research will focus on the interaction of all of these key aspects and will inform the Department’s initial consideration of the scope of the issues to be considered as part of the review of mineral exploration and mining policy and legislation.
This research is intended to be an independent assessment based on a range of data sources and analysis of that information to inform and test conclusions.
- Contract scope, requirements and methodology - research study of impacts of mineral exploration and mining in NI
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.
- Lignite Policy - (including Terms for Mining Licence)
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.
- 5th UK EITI report covering the year 2018
- 4th UK EITI report covering the year 2017
- 3rd UK EITI report covering the year 2016
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.