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Procedure : 2015/2117(INI)
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Thursday, 27 April 2017 - Brussels
Implementation of the Mining Waste Directive

European Parliament resolution of 27 April 2017 on implementation of the Mining Waste Directive (2006/21/EC) (2015/2117(INI))

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to Directive 2006/21/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 15 March 2006 on the management of waste from extractive industries and amending Directive 2004/35/EC(1) (hereinafter referred to as ‘the Directive’),

–  having regard to Commission Decision 2009/335/EC of 20 April 2009 on technical guidelines for the establishment of the financial guarantee(2),

–  having regard to Commission Decision 2009/337/EC of 20 April 2009 on the definition of the criteria for the classification of waste facilities in accordance with Annex III of Directive 2006/21/EC(3),

–  having regard to Commission Decision 2009/360/EC of 30 April 2009 completing the technical requirements for waste characterisation(4),

–  having regard to Commission Decision 2009/358/EC of 29 April 2009 on the harmonisation, the regular transmission of the information and the questionnaire referred to in Articles 22(1)(a) and 18 of Directive 2006/21/EC(5),

–  having regard to Commission Decision 2009/359/EC of 30 April 2009 completing the definition of inert waste in implementation of Article 22(1)(f) of Directive 2006/21/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council concerning the management of waste from extractive industries(6),

–  having regard to the report from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions on the implementation of Directive 2006/21/EC (COM(2016)0553),

–  having regard to Directive 2004/35/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 21 April 2004 on environmental liability with regard to the prevention and remedying of environmental damage(7),

–  having regard to the European Implementation Assessment study on the ‘Mining Waste Directive’ of January 2017 carried out by the European Parliamentary Research Service, including its Annex 1 Study entitled ‘Exploring the alternatives to technologies involving high environmental and health risks related to the improper management of the waste from extractive industries: Challenges, risks and opportunities for the extractive industries arising in the context of the “circular economy” concept’(8),

–  having regard to its resolution of 5 May 2010 on a general ban on the use of cyanide mining technologies in the European Union(9),

–  having regard to its resolution of 8 October 2015 on lessons learned from the red mud disaster, five years after the accident in Hungary(10),

–  having regard to the Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions entitled ‘Closing the loop – An EU action plan for the Circular Economy’(COM(2015)0614),

–  having regard to the European Commission feasibility study on the concept of an EU-wide industrial disaster risk sharing facility(11),

–  having regard to Rule 52 of its Rules of Procedure,

–  having regard to the report of the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (A8-0071/2017),

A.  whereas in the aftermath of two major accidents involving the spill of hazardous extractive waste, the Directive on the management of waste from extractive industries was adopted with the aim of preventing and reducing as far as possible any adverse effects on the environment and any risks to human health resulting from the management of extractive waste;

B.  whereas the deadline for transposition of the Directive by the Member States expired on 1 May 2008, and almost all Member States were behind schedule with the transposition of the Directive into their national legislation;

C.  whereas the Commission has launched ‘non-conformity’ infringement procedures against 18 Member States for their failure to correctly and completely transpose the Directive; whereas, furthermore, four cases were still ongoing at the end of November 2016;

D.  whereas a full eleven years after the adoption of the Directive, the Commission has not yet adopted the guidelines on inspections as required by Article 22(1)(c) of the Directive; whereas the need for robust guidelines from the Commission is clearly underlined by the absence of a definition and details of how an inspection should be carried out, and the different interpretations by Member States of the Directive’s requirements;

E.  whereas ten Member States reported having no Category A facilities within their national boundaries;

F.  whereas the limitations of the current three-year reporting system, evidenced by the disparities between the information provided by Member States and the probable misinterpretation of some of the provisions of the Directive, have meant that the unsatisfactory quality of available data has not made it possible to outline and assess the implementation of the Directive in practice;

G.  whereas Commission Decision 2009/335/EC is without prejudice to Article 14 of the Directive, which requires that the financial guarantee be based on the assumption of rehabilitation being performed by a third party;

H.  whereas there is no database on extractive waste facilities at EU level;

I.  whereas waste originating from the quarrying and mining industries makes up a very large proportion of the total volume of waste produced in the European Union (approximately 30 % in 2012), part of which is hazardous waste;

J.  whereas the EU is highly dependent on the import of raw materials from third countries and a significant number of natural resources face rapid depletion; whereas the environmental and health legislation in those third countries is often less stringent than in the EU;

K.  whereas the Commission Communication entitled ‘Closing the loop – An EU action plan for the Circular Economy’ (COM(2015)0614) did not provide for any legislative review of the Directive;

L.  whereas the transition to a circular economy offers important intrinsic environmental benefits and is key to the EU’s long-term competitiveness;

1.  Regrets the fact that Member States (EU-27)(12) have experienced certain transposition problems in terms of timing or quality, or both, and that proper implementation of the Directive cannot be expected in practice for the time being in all Member States, given the existence of ongoing ‘non-conformity’ infringement procedures;

2.  Calls on the Member States concerned and the Commission to ensure the correct and complete transposition and implementation of the Directive as soon as possible; asks the Commission to provide sufficient guidance to the Member States in order to ensure this correct and complete transposition;

3.  Underlines the fact that the lack of guidelines on inspections, as foreseen by Article 22 (1)(c) of the Directive, not only hampers the effective and efficient implementation of the Directive in practice, but also results in differences in compliance and enforcement costs for operators and authorities from one Member State to another;

4.  Urges the Commission, therefore, to adopt concrete sector-specific guidelines, including a definition, on inspections in the extractive waste industries as soon as possible, and in any case not later than by the end of 2017;

5.  Calls on the Commission to ensure the possibility of unscheduled on-the-spot inspections by the relevant competent Member State authorities;

6.  Considers that the current reporting system under Article 18(1) is not fit for purpose and is ineffective in that it does not allow for the full picture regarding implementation to be outlined and assessed, while creating an unnecessary burden on Member States and the Commission services and thus also reducing efficiency;

7.  Highlights in this respect the deficient design of the data collection tool (the questionnaire(13)), which allows for ambiguous interpretations and thus leads to the reporting of measures adopted at national level rather than how they are put into practice, especially as regards reporting on extractive waste facilities;

8.  Underlines that some of the figures provided by Member States regarding the number of facilities on their territories identified as being subject to the Directive do not seem plausible, because in some cases they are relatively low when compared to data on the total generation of extractive waste at national level coming from other information sources;

9.  Calls for reform of the current reporting mechanism (including the questionnaire) as a matter of priority and in time for the upcoming deadlines for the third reporting period (2014-2017), so as to allow a proper assessment of the implementation of the Directive in practice based on the third reporting period and thereafter; further calls on the Commission to include in the reporting mechanism a demand that all the relevant environmental impact data be provided;

10.  Suggests that the questionnaire under Annex III of Commission Decision 2009/358/EC needs to be improved by obliging Member States to report exhaustive, up-to-date and reliable data on extractive waste facilities hosted on their territories; proposes that the chosen reform approach should allow for a European database of extractive waste facilities to be established and easily updated, as this would be instrumental in ensuring that the full picture regarding practical implementation of the Directive can be outlined, monitored and assessed at EU level; notes that other approaches could also be given consideration, such as the use of an exemplary completed national report under Article 18(1) of the Directive as a model to be followed, and that such improvements should no longer allow for different interpretations by Member States on the data to be provided;

11.  Regrets that the Commission has published only one implementation report covering both the first and second reporting periods (2008-2011 and 2011-2014), instead of one every three years as required pursuant to Article 18(1) of the Directive, thus leaving the public for many years without information on the (lack of) implementation of this Directive and hereby de facto delaying further action to ensure full implementation of this Directive which, it should be recalled, deals with an economic activity with significant environmental, health and social implications; calls on the Commission to strictly respect the three-year intervals for reporting;

12.  Acknowledges that the majority of Member States have adopted the measures required to implement the provisions set out in the Directive; calls attention to the fact, however, that differences between Member States’ interpretations show that further effort is needed to ensure that all Member States understand and apply the basic concepts of the directive in a similar way, thus ensuring a level playing field across the EU;

13.  Welcomes the Commission’s plans to issue general guidance on the implementation of the provisions set out in the Directive, which would allow for improvements in both compliance with and enforcement of the Directive, including the whole life cycle of a mining waste facility from permitting to rehabilitation and post-closure monitoring; draws attention to the large variations in interpretation and misunderstandings as regards the basic provisions of the Directive (for example, whether Member States host facilities covered by the Directive or not);

14.  Is especially concerned about the incompleteness of the process regarding the due classification and permitting of Category A facilities, which involve higher risks, and warns that external emergency plans are missing for around 25 % of the Category A facilities located on EU territory; calls, therefore, on the Member States to finalise the adequate classification of facilities on their territories and to adopt the missing external emergency plans no later than by the end of 2017;

15.  Is concerned that, based on the national reports submitted under Article 18(1) of the Directive, a significant number of EU Member States appear not to have correctly identified the facilities falling under the scope of the Directive, in particular as regards facilities that should be classified as falling under Category A;

16.  Highlights the importance of obtaining information on the condition of current tailings ponds; calls on the Member States to improve the safety of dams in order to protect human health and the environment, especially in Category A facilities;

17.  Stresses the importance of already involving the local communities concerned in the planning phase of extractive waste management projects using hazardous substances, and of guaranteeing transparency and the real involvement of citizens throughout the authorisation procedure and when updating a granted permit or permit conditions; reiterates the importance of the Espoo and Aarhus Conventions in this respect; calls on the Commission to provide a good practice database for the better involvement of local communities;

18.  Calls on the Commission to propose more effective measures to protect the environment and citizens’ health since some Member States have proven unable so far to prevent soil and water pollution by some operators;

19.  Takes note of the unnecessary administrative burden on authorities and operators as regards the management of inert waste and unpolluted soil, and calls on the Commission and Member States to avoid the duplication of authorisation processes, taking into account the sector’s characteristics and the health, safety and environment implications;

20.  Urges the Commission to investigate how Article 14 of the Directive and Commission Decision 2009/335/EC have been implemented in the Member States and whether the financial security instruments established are sufficient and fit for purpose;

21.  Draws attention to its abovementioned resolution of 5 May 2010 on a complete ban on cyanide mining in the EU, especially in light of the weak implementation status concerning the authorisation of Category A facilities, and reiterates its call on the Commission to propose a complete ban on the use of cyanide mining technologies in the European Union as soon as possible, especially in light of the availability of non-toxic alternatives such as cyclodextrin(14); requests that Member States immediately ensure the best possible management of cyanide tailings ponds;

22.  Urges businesses and the relevant competent authorities to consider available advanced technologies during the process of permitting extractive waste facilities, especially as regards the design of tailing dams, in compliance with the highest environmental standards; calls on the Member States to collect and analyse the data provided for the permit procedure, to compare these with the actual environmental impacts of an operating mining waste facility and, where necessary, to make any necessary corrections to the permit requirements;

23.  Calls on the Commission to ensure sufficient financing for research and innovation in the field of the management of mining waste facilities in order to improve the safety of those facilities;

24.  Calls on the Commission to use the opportunity of the ongoing Best Available Techniques Reference Document (BREF) review in the context of the ‘circular economy’ concept to give priority to higher environmental standards and resource efficiency when defining best practices to be included in the mining waste management plans;

25.  Calls on the Commission to encourage the recovery of critical raw materials also from mining waste, as defined in the EU Action Plan for the Circular Economy;

26.  Regrets the trend in mining to turn to lower-grade and deeper resources in Europe, which results in the extraction of more material in order to produce the target metal; requests that Member States utilise waste rock in the best possible way to replace virgin rock material where possible; is very concerned about the process efficiency of chemical processing, as a lower ore/host-rock ratio means that more tailings, and thus mining waste, will be produced per tonne of target metal;

27.  Emphasises that, in view of the EU’s transition towards a circular economy, reducing the use of resources and fostering reuse and recycling are key; calls on the Commission to consider setting targets to this end based on a life-cycle assessment;

28.  Emphasises that ‘comprehensive’ extraction could be made the leading principle, considering, however, technical and market constraints, as well as potential indirect costs, such as the CO2 footprint; suggests that waste from mining and milling be analysed and segregated for disposal in order to facilitate its later recovery;

29.  Calls on the Commission and the competent authorities in the Member States to further invest in research and development in alternative viable processes to supply the EU with raw and secondary raw materials and to prevent waste from mining activities;

30.  Emphasises that the historical heritage of abandoned mining waste facilities could, in the medium or short term, potentially pose a serious threat to human health or the environment; calls on the Commission to display full transparency in clarifying all the derogations from the Directive provided to Member States and the gaps that remain in relation to historical waste sites and their remediation; calls in this regard on the Commission, together with the Member States, to come up with an action plan on the full rehabilitation of these sites, taking into account examples of best practices and the possible advantages of the ‘circular economy’ concept if applied to the management of waste from extractive industries, and including arrangements to monitor the post-closure phases of these sites;

31.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council and the Commission.

(1) OJ L 102, 11.4.2006, p. 15.
(2) OJ L 101, 21.4.2009, p. 25.
(3) OJ L 102, 22.4.2009, p. 7.
(4) OJ L 110, 1.5.2009, p. 48.
(5) OJ L 110, 1.5.2009, p. 39.
(6) OJ L 110, 1.5.2009, p. 46.
(7) OJ L 143, 30.4.2004, p. 56.
(8) PE number: 593.788.
(9) OJ C 81 E, 15.3.2011, p. 74.
(10) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2015)0349.
(11) Study to explore the feasibility of creating a fund to cover environmental liability and losses occurring from industrial accidents, Final Report, European Commission, DG ENV, 17 April 2013.
(12) Cf. footnote 3 to the explanatory statement in report A8-0071/2017.
(13) Annex III to Commission Decision 2009/358/EC.
(14) Liu et al. (2013) ‘Selective isolation of gold facilitated by second-sphere coordination with α-cyclodextrin’, Nature Communications.

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