Exploration for Minerals in Ireland
Exploration in Ireland is undertaken under a simple and user-friendly licensing system. The system provides for flexibility of exploration activity while maximizing on the ground expenditure and stimulating grass-roots exploration for a diversity of minerals. This is done through a Prospecting Licence, which is typically issued within 4 months of application.
The Prospecting Licence (PL) gives the holder the right to explore for certain specific minerals. Only holders of current licences are considered for Mining Facilities to develop such minerals within the licence area, whether the minerals are State-owned or privately-owned. There are currently over 1500 delineated licence areas, which are defined by townland boundaries.
Application and Issue Procedures
Applications for prospecting licences are made on a prescribed form and applicants are required to provide:
- Evidence of technical capability and financial viability
- Reasons why particular minerals are being sought, and an appropriate exploration programme for all such minerals
- Commitment to a minimum expenditure requirement (see table)
- Evidence of suitable insurance against third party claims or environmental damage, with the Minister indemnified. The same insurance policy can cover all ground held by the licensee
If an application is deemed acceptable, an offer is then made to the company, setting out the required terms and the area to be licensed. On acceptance, notification of the Ministers intention to grant a licence is then advertised see Statutory Notices. There is a statutory 21 day waiting period before the prospecting licence is issued, to allow for any objections.
A Prospecting Licence typically covers some 35 sq. km. Prospecting Licences are issued for six years for specified minerals and is renewable. A minimum work programme is also required, details of which are agreed with the licensee. Progressively increased work and expenditure commitments are required on renewal. Work reports are required every two years, and are held confidential for six years or until surrender of the licence (if earlier). However, an exception is regional airborne surveys, the data from which is made public after four years except over ground still held by the company that commissioned the survey.
Licensees should respect the wishes of the landowners regarding access, and be environmentally responsible. Although exploration is exempted from controls under the Local Government (Planning and Development) Acts, 1963 to 1993, licensees are provided by EMD with Guidelines for good environmental practice. Typically, two weeks advance notice of drilling is required, while trenching needs prior approval from EMD with immediate rehabilitation thereafter. Stricter controls are applied in environmentally sensitive areas.
These are payable as part of the permitting process.
- There is an Application Fee of €190 for each Prospecting Licence (PL) area.
- For each six year licence, a Consideration (holding charge) is payable in instalments, see table.
- Reduced Considerations apply to Incentive Ground.
As part of the permitting regulations, the licencee must carry out work to a minimum expenditure level for each PL area.
Minimum expenditure requirements for each of the various categories of ground are provided in the table.
Note: where an applicant undertakes to spend more than the standard minimum expenditure requirements when applying for a Competition Area, the applicant, if successful will be required to meet these higher expenditures.
Prohibition on exploration for Uranium in Ireland
In a Press Release dated 2nd December 2007 the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, Mr Eamon Ryan T.D., announced a prohibition on exploration for uranium in Ireland.